What to do After a Dog Bite
We share our homes and open park spaces with many dogs, all of which have the potential to bite you or your child. Statistics show that 4.7 million people in the United States are bitten by a dog every year — scarier still is knowing that half of those bites happen to children. Approximately 1 in 5 bite injuries need medical attention, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Here are some important steps to take if a dog bit you or your child. While many dog bites can be treated at home, some will need to be treated by a medical professional to prevent further injury or infection.
When to Seek Help for a Dog Bite
If a dog you don’t know bit you, you should at least call your doctor for advice on next steps. When dealing with a stray dog or one that you don’t know, you have no idea if the animal is up to date on its vaccinations or not. Seek help if any of the following apply:
- You can’t stop the bleeding on your own.
- The wound becomes red or warm, or it swells or leaks pus. This is a sure sign of an infection.
Home Remedies for Dog Bites
If you are certain that the dog bite does not require medical attention, here are some things you can do at home to prevent infection and help the wound heal.
- Stop the bleeding, if any, by applying pressure with a clean cloth or towel.
- Use simple soap and water to clean the wound. Dogs are known to harbor germs in their mouths, so this step is essential to preventing infection.
- Wrap the wound in a sterile bandage.
- Change the bandages daily and apply a topical antibiotic solution, like Neosporin, to assist in infection prevention.
If you realize you need a doctor, the doctor will likely ask if the dog is up to date on its rabies vaccine. If you don’t know, you may have to undergo rabies treatment to prevent the disease in yourself. At the very least, a doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection caused by the dog’s bite — or prevent a likely infection from happening. Your physician may request a follow-up appointment to ensure the wound is healing properly and signs of infection are lessening.
If your wound is deep, stitches may be necessary. However, this step is definitely up to your doctor to decide, as conflicting information is available on whether or not a dog bite should be sutured shut. Some research shows that stitching a dog bit could enhance the potential for infection. Talk with your doctor about the best steps to take in this scenario.