According to a 2015 survey conducted by the Humane Society, 44% of Americans have at least one dog. Generally loving creatures, dogs are not usually seen as a large threat to humans. Occasionally, though, a dog can bite and cause harm. Dog bites are typically minimal injuries, like when a puppy may nibble on your finger or get a little over-excited when playing with you or a member of the family. In most cases, minor dog bites can normally be treated at home in order to prevent infection. The high level of bacteria in animal saliva makes infection the most common problem associated with dog bites.
How a Dog Bites
Dogs typically bite in certain ways. A dog uses its front teeth to grasp in order to bite down. The other teeth will tug at the surrounding skin. The front teeth will often cause a puncture wound, or deep hole in the skin. Other types of bites will cause injuries more like an abrasion or scrape. Adults are most commonly bit on the hands, legs, arms, and feet, while smaller children are often bitten in the facial area, including their lips, cheeks, and nose.
How to Treat a Minor Dog Bite
Thankfully, most dog bites are minor enough to be treated at home by following these basic first-aid steps:
- Apply direct and persistent pressure to the wound while preparing to clean.
- Clean the affected area immediately and thoroughly by using soap to cleanse, and then running it under warm water.
- Apply antibiotic ointment to reduce the risk of infection, and then cover with a sterile bandage.
- A bleeding wound is good. If the affected area is not bleeding, encourage it. The flowing blood will prevent bacteria from entering the body and infecting it.
- It is then advised to take some sort of over-the-counter pain relief, such as ibuprofen or Advil. This will also reduce inflammation.
- Seek medical advice afterward in order to proceed, unless the dog bite is extremely minor. There is always a chance of infection.
The final, follow-up step is very important when treating a dog bite properly. A healthcare provider can get a more thorough, educated look at the wound. It is possible that your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic if the wound was not cleaned well enough. Anti-rabies treatments and tetanus shots are also possibilities if you were dealing with a stray or unknown animal. With the help of a professional, you can be sure that the bite is not infected. If there is not follow up with a professional, the bite may become infected later on and cause harmful or even deadly consequences, which could have otherwise been prevented.
Drawing Blood and Deep Wounds
If an animal draws blood, at a minimum you need to get a tetanus shot. Although most dog bites are easily treatable, there are severe instances professional medical treatment may be necessary when the bite is especially deep or profound. If the bite occurred on a sensitive area of the body like the face or thigh, or if the animal is a stray, you should definitely see a doctor. Dogs can carry an array of diseases if not regularly treated by a veterinarian.
What to Do if the Bite Appears Infected
There are a few key signs that will point toward infection when dealing with a dog bite. These signs include:
- Increased, severe pain surrounding the bite area
- Fluid or pus seeping from the wound
- Swollen lymph glands
- Redness and swelling in and around the affected area
- A high fever accompanied by shivers
While it is not likely, dog bites can cause major complications if any infection is not quickly treated. It is wise to seek medical help at the first sign of infection. Infected dog bites can lead to an infection of the inner lining of the heart, an infection of the outer layers of the brain, or an infection in the blood, known more commonly as blood poisoning or sepsis.
In some cases, if the bite was especially brutal, it is crucial to call 911 immediately. Some serious dog bites can result in the need for surgery. It is also important to note what kind of dog bit the affected individual. If the dog was wild or stray, you must take action, regardless of how bad the wound seems. Stray dogs can have an array of diseases, including rabies. A person should call 911 immediately if:
- Blood is spurting from the wound
- The wound will not stop bleeding excessively after 10 minutes of applying pressure
- The person is severely wounded
- The dog was stray or its medical history is unknown to the affected individual