Approximately 4 million Americans suffer from dog bites every year. These range from bites that barely break the skin to wounds that cause rabies and other medical problems. Getting immediate care is a top priority.
- Level one: The dog’s teeth do not touch the skin.
- Level two: The dog’s teeth touch but do not penetrate the skin.
- Level three: One to four shallow puncture wounds.
- Level four: One to four puncture wounds from one bite and at least one wound is deep.
- Level five: Multiple bites, possibly from a dog attack, and with some puncture wounds.
If the dog bite is a level one, two or three, you can likely take care of it at home.
First, quickly evaluate the wound. Wash it with soap and water as quickly as possible if there is no blood.
If the wound is bleeding, with a clean cloth, apply pressure for about five minutes or until the bleeding stops. Flushing the wound profusely with clean water lowers the risks of infection.
Keep the wound area above heart level, if possible, to prevent swelling and infection. Loosely cover an open wound with a clean bandage.
If you can find the dog’s owner, ask for a copy of the dog’s vaccination records to help your doctor decide whether follow-up treatment is needed. Call animal control if the dog is a stray so it can try to locate the animal and determine whether the dog has rabies.
Wash the bite wound daily. Be sure to check for redness, swelling, warmth, a foul smell, whitish-yellow discharge, or other signs of infection.
Emergency departments are the best equipped to manage dog-bite trauma. Primary healthcare providers can evaluate and treat minor bites.
Call 9-1-1 and get emergency medical care if the victim is bleeding severely from several bite wounds. Call a doctor if:
- Bleeding does not stop after 15 minutes of pressure being applied.
- The bite broke the skin. A tetanus shot may be necessary, depending on when the patient received the last booster.
- A wild or stray dog bit the victim.
- The animal’s immunization record is unavailable.
- The victim has a weakened immune system.
- There is redness, swelling, warmth, pus, or other indications of infection.
Doctors prescribe antibiotics to prevent or treat infection. Victims may need rabies vaccinations if the dog has or is believed to have rabies. Plastic surgery is available for more serious bites.
Attorneys can assist victims with taking appropriate action. They can help them seek compensation for their injuries.