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What should you do after a dog bite?

On Behalf of | Apr 5, 2022 | Personal Injury

After a dog bite, you should treat the injury immediately to lower the risk of bacterial or other injuries. Around one in five bites require medical care.

Get away

Your first step after a dog bite is to get away from the dog. This lowers the chances of further injury or receiving more serious dog bites.

Next, determine whether the dog was inoculated against rabies. If the owner is nearby, ask for the dog’s vaccination history and get their name, phone number and veterinarian’s contact information. If nobody accompanied the dog, ask any witnesses if they know the dog and its owner.

Be sure to keep your dog vaccinated.

First aid

First aid depends on the bite’s severity. Wash the wound area with soap and warm water if the skin is unbroken. Press gently on the wound to cause a small amount of bleeding to flush out germs.

If there is bleeding, gently press a clean cloth on the wound to stop the flow. Apply antibacterial lotion and cover it with a sterile bandage.

Monitor all bites, even minor ones, for infection until they are completely healed. If the wound becomes worse or you feel pain or develop a fever, get medical help immediately.

Seeking treatment

Get medical help if the wound:

  • Is caused by a dog with an unknown vaccine history, acting erratically or appears sick.
  • Does not stop bleeding.
  • Causes severe pain.
  • Exposes bone, tendon, or muscle.
  • Causes the inability to bend fingers or other loss of function.
  • Appears red, swollen or inflamed.
  • Leaks pus or fluid.

Seek care if you do not remember when you had your last tetanus shot, have a fever, or feel weak, faint, or disoriented. Have someone else drive you to a doctor or the hospital.


A dog’s mouth carries infections such as staphylococcus, pasteurella and capnocytophaga which can infect people if the bite breaks skin. Diabetics or people with weakened immune systems have a higher risk of infection.

Wash the wound immediately, apply topical antibiotics in and around broken skin, keep the wound covered and change bandages daily.

Infection symptoms can appear from one to 14 days after the bite. Obtain medical treatment immediately if they appear.

Other harm

Other complications include:

  • Nerve and muscle damage which can occur even with small wounds.
  • Rabies which is fatal but rare and preventable when immediate treatment is provided. Seek medical help if the dog acted erratically or foamed at the mouth.
  • Tetanus, which is prevented by vaccines.
  • Scarring.
  • Annual fatalities are low, and 70 percent of fatalities suffered by children under 10.

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