Dog bites can happen for a lot of reasons, from a puppy in the teething stage nipping you to an attack by a strange dog on the street.
When dealing with dog bites, there are certain steps to take, but what to do depends upon the circumstances and severity of the injury. Here’s our advice on dealing with dog bites, starting with what to do in every case.
If it’s a superficial scrape or gash, clean the wound with running water, and then hydrogen peroxide or isopropyl alcohol. Apply a topical antibiotic and cover with a bandage.
First of all, don’t be afraid to let the wound bleed. Unless you’ve lost a lot of blood or it is gushing out forcefully, or the wound is in your head or neck, (in which case call 911 immediately), wait five minutes. The flow of blood out of the wound will help to cleanse it.
After five minutes, see if you can stop the bleeding through direct pressure. Again, if it doesn’t stop, call for emergency help. If it does stop, cleanse the wound by rinsing under running water with mild soap for five minutes.
Do not use rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, iodine, or Mercurochrome for puncture wounds. These can slow healing. Puncture wounds do not normally need to be bandaged, but if you choose to, be sure to clean the wound thoroughly first. Luckily, dog bites do not normally leave debris or other objects in the wound which would need to be removed.
Disease and Rabies
If you are bitten by an unknown dog, the American Red Cross suggests that you do not try to stop, catch, or hold the animal. Contact animal control as soon as possible so they can try to capture the dog, and call 911 so you can begin rabies vaccinations right away.
If the animal that bit you seems to be partially paralyzed, acts aggressively, or behaves in a strange way, then it may be rabid.
For any bite, be sure to clean and disinfect the wound thoroughly, because all animal bites can transmit bacteria and cause infection.
What to Do if Your Puppy Bites You
At a certain stage, puppies bite. It’s what they do, first when they’re teething, and then later as they try to establish dominance. The important thing to remember is that a puppy doesn’t bite you because it hates you. It bites you because you’re there, it feels something soft, and it has teeth.
Sometimes, a puppy may even break the skin but, again, the important thing to remember is that this is just a stage of the puppy’s growth. In order to deal with it, remember two things. The first is to remain calm. A nip from a puppy may hurt, but the less you react to it, the less importance your puppy will attach to it.
Second, in order to break your puppy of this habit, you need to learn the signs of when she is about to nip, then correct her with a quick pinch on the scruff just before she decides to do it. This will redirect her from her instinct to bite, and eventually teach her not to do so.
If you do get nipped, most likely it’s a superficial scratch, so see the instructions under “Superficial Wounds,” above.
What to Do if Your Dog Bites You
Follow the general procedures, and then look at the causes of the bite. If it happened during a dog fight, then it was most likely accidental — your dog was in an aggressive zone and you were in the wrong place — so it was nothing personal, and you probably don’t have to worry about your dog suddenly biting you again.
Do not discipline your dog long after the fact. She won’t connect discipline now with what she did in the past, so it will just confuse her. If she does remember biting you, she may show signs of submission afterwards (ears, tail, and head down). Practice no talk, no touch, and no eye contact for a while and remain calm.
If your dog suddenly nips at you for no apparent reason, consult your veterinarian first. This may be a sign of pain or a hidden injury, which your vet can diagnose. If there are no obvious medical causes, then you have to look at what happened leading up to the bite. For example, did you suddenly sit too close to him on the couch, try to take away a favorite toy, or get too near the food bowl while he was eating?
In those cases, you need to work with your dog to eliminate budding aggression by establishing rules, boundaries, and limitations, consulting with a professional trainer if necessary.
What to Do if Someone Else’s Dog Bites You
If the dog’s owner is present, then share names and contact numbers so you can get proof of rabies vaccination from them. Treat the wound as noted above.
Afterward, check with the dog’s veterinarian to make sure the rabies vaccine is up to date. Animal control and the police should be notified of the incident so they ensure that the owner of the dog takes steps to prevent their dog from biting someone again.
Has a dog bitten you? How did it happen? Tell us all about it in the comments.