what to do if bitten by a dog

Americans have a 1 in 50 chance of being bitten by a dog in any given year.

If you’re bitten by a dog that’s not yours, the experience can be a scary one. But the most important thing is not to panic and to keep your head.

After that, there are certain steps you should follow, and in a particular order. Knowing these will keep you healthy and give you a fighting chance at being compensated.

Keep reading to learn what to do if bitten by a dog and more.

What Happens When a Dog Bites You?

In most dog bites, a dog uses its front teeth to bite. The front teeth grab and compress the tissue, and the severity ranges depending on the size of the dog and the power of their jaw. Front teeth can leave a puncture wound and even smaller teeth can tear your skin and leave an open, jagged wound.

One of the biggest health concerns associated with dog bites is infection. Infections come from not taking care of the open wound as well as the transfer of bacteria. 

As much as 50% of dog bites transfer a bacteria from the dog’s mouth into your bloodstream. These bacteria are staphylococcus, streptococcus and pasteurella, as well as capnocytophaga.

Infections from dog bites can get so severe that you may require hospitalization and/or intravenous antibiotics. And if you have diabetes or another condition that leaves your immune system weakened or compromised, that risk is much higher.

For that reason, you should see your doctor within at least eight hours of the bite. If you wait any longer than that, you’re raising your risk of getting an infection.

Other Potential Risks of Dog Bites

While infections are the most common health concern related to dog bites, there are other potential risks.

Of the worst of these risks is rabies. Unvaccinated and feral dogs may be carrying rabies and can transfer that to humans through bites. If you think the dog that bit you might have rabies, you have to get a rabies shot when you seek medical attention.

What To Do If Bitten By A Dog

Below we’ve listed the six steps you should follow after a dog bite. The intention behind these is to both protect your health and to make sure you’re taking the right steps toward receiving compensation for your pain and suffering.

1. Let the Wound Bleed

This may seem counterintuitive but, in most cases, you should let the wound bleed. The exceptions to this rule are if you’re losing a lot of blood, it’s gushing out forcefully, or you’ve been bitten on your head or neck. 

If none of the above are true, then you should let the wound bleed for at least five minutes. That’s because the flowing blood actually helps to cleanse the wound from the inside. It’s a chance to potentially rid of any bacteria that was passed onto you from the dog’s mouth.

If, after five minutes, the wound doesn’t stop bleeding when you apply direct pressure, then seek medical attention. If the blood does stop flowing, then you can proceed to clean it.

2. Clean the Wound

If the wound has stopped bleeding or it was just a superficial scrape or gash in the first place, you need to clean it.

To do so, run the wound under warm, running tap water for five to ten minutes. You can then wash it with a mild soap.

Use a clean cloth to gently dry the area. Then apply hydrogen peroxide or isopropyl alcohol to disinfect the area. However, if you have a puncture wound, don’t use these items because they can slow the healing process.

Consider applying an over-the-counter, topical antibiotic to the wound if you have some on hand. Then, wrap the wound using a sterile bandage.

3. Find Out About The Animal

In any case, don’t try to catch or hold the animal after you’ve been bitten. This may lead the dog to get even more aggressive.

If you know the owner of the dog, find them and ask about the dog’s medical history. This information should be provided to the doctor but this step is also important for establishing who is at fault for the bite.

If you don’t know the dog or the owner, then contact animal control. In fact, animal control should know about the incident even if you locate the owner. Polic and animal control need to ensure that the owner takes steps to prevent future bites.

4. Seek Medical Attention

If your gushing blood or the wound was in your head and neck, seeking immediate medical attention is the first step. If otherwise, then you need to seek medical attention within eight hours of the attack.

Your doctor will help you clean the wound as well as provide pain medication. They’ll give you stitches when and if needed. And, if you need a rabies shot, this is where you’ll get one.

5. After Care

If you’re given medication, be sure to take it as directed by your doctor. That goes for any medical advice they provide you. 

Watch for signs of infection and return to the doctor should this occur. Signs of infection include swelling, pain, fever, and redness.

6. Collect Evidence

If a dog bites you that isn’t your own, you might be entitled to compensation. The first step here is collecting insurance information from the owner of the dog, to establish whose dog it is and who was at fault for the attack. You should also talk to anybody who witnessed the dog bite and collect their information and statements.

Were You Bitten By Someone Else’s Dog?

Knowing what to do if bitten by a dog can help protect your health. But not only will following these steps help prevent infection, but they’ll also help you establish who was at fault for the attack. And that information can be used by your attorney if you decide to seek compensation.

After you’ve completed all these steps, the next step is to contact an experienced lawyer. Contact us to find out how we can help.

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