According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs every year. Unfortunately, half of all dog bite victims are children, resulting in serious health concerns and emotional scarring. In fact, many people’s phobia of dogs is borne out of an unfortunate experience like this in childhood.
Whether you have a dog in your home or not, it’s important to know what to do if you or your children are bitten by a dog. In addition, it’s important to know how to identify different kinds of wounds and understand how to prevent bites from happening in the first place.
What to do after a dog bite:
- Clean the area right away — First, you should place a clean towel over the bitten area in order to stop the bleeding. Then, you should wash the bite carefully with soap and water, apply a sterile bandage to the wound, and apply antibiotic ointment (every day) in order to prevent infections. Try your best to keep the injured area elevated as much as possible, too.
- Do not discipline the dog long after the bite — If the bite was from your dog, make sure to not discipline them later on. If you care for the wound and visit the doctor and then come back home for discipline, it will just confuse your dog because they won’t connect the discipline with what happened in the past. Practice no talk, no touch, and no eye contact for a while, instead.
- Visit a healthcare professional — Though you can provide first aid treatment for a dog bite from the comfort of your own home, it’s imperative to see a doctor as soon as possible following a dog bite. You need to head to a medical facility immediately if the bite was from an unfamiliar dog, the bite is exceptionally deep, there are signs of infections (redness, swelling, and pus), or you aren’t able to stop the bleeding.
Various types of dog bite wounds:
- Superficial Wounds
- Puncture Wounds
- Rabies and other diseases
Preventing dog bites:
Approximately 80% of common illnesses are preventable through early intervention — the same is true for dog bites. If you can intervene early on and get you, your child, or the dog out of the situation right away, you’ll be able to prevent the dog bite from ever occurring.
- Know how to identify and manage warning signs — If you notice your dog or someone else’s dog acting strange, that could indicate that it is stressed out and could lead to a potential biting situation. Here are some indicators to look out for: lip licking, wide eyes, spiked fur, growling and snapping, stiff wagging tail, cowering, tail tucking, backing away or hiding.
- Properly train your dog — Encourage your entire family to focus on properly training your dog in order to prevent bites down the line. Consider hiring a professional trainer in order to learn more about how to interact with your dog during these training periods.
- Always ask — If the dog in question ins’t your own, be sure to always ask “May I pet your dog?” Especially if your children are nearby and want to pet the dog, get permission first in order to confirm if it is safe or not to do so.
Remember: children are curious little people! In fact, British researchers have found that the typical 10-year-old owns more than 200 toys but only plays with about a dozen. That’s because children are especially drawn to novelty, which is why many young people can’t resist reaching out to pet a new dog. Unfortunately, not all dogs are accustomed to being touched by strangers.
Although roughly half (44% to 65%) of emergency room episodes can be treated at an urgent care location, it may be wiser to go to the ER depending on the bite’s severity.
Dogs are great pets and are typically very friendly — but make sure you and your children are as safe as possible whenever an unfamiliar dog is nearby.