How To Treat Dog Bites

Patients Bitten by Dogs Run the Risk of Infection

infected dog bite
Potentially infected dog bite held together with staples.. samsyseeds / Getty Images

Dog bites are common, especially in children. Responding to a dog bite should always start with the safety of all involved, including the patient, the rescuer, and if possible, the dog.

Treatment

  1. Stay Safe. Secure the dog and/or the patient. Move one away from the other. Dogs may bite because their territory is threatened. If the dog's owner is around, instruct him or her to secure the dog. If not, move the patient to a safe location. Don't start any treatment until there is a reasonable expectation that the dog won't attack again.
  1. If you are not the patient, practice universal precautions and wear personal protective equipment if available.

  2. Control any bleeding by following the appropriate steps. Avoid using a tourniquet unless there is severe bleeding that cannot be controlled any other way.
  3. Once the bleeding is controlled, clean the wound with soap and warm water. Do not be afraid to clean inside the wound. Be sure to rinse all the soap away, or it will cause irritation later.
  4. Cover the wound with a clean, dry dressing. You can put antibiotic ointment on the wound before covering, but it's not necessary. Watch for signs of infection:
    • Redness
    • Swelling
    • Heat
    • Weeping pus
  5. Always call a physician to determine if you should be seen. Some dog bites need antibiotics, particularly if they are deep puncture wounds. Additionally, many municipalities have regulations for reporting dog bites and monitoring the dogs, which is often initiated by contact with a doctor.
  1. Any unidentified dog runs a minor risk of carrying rabies. If the dog cannot be identified and the owner cannot show proof of rabies vaccination, the patient must seek medical attention. Rabies is always fatal to humans if not treated.
  2. The wound may need stitches. If the edges of a laceration are unable to touch, or if there are any avulsions, the wound will need emergency medical attention. Wounds on the face or hands should be seen by a physician because of the likelihood of scarring and loss of function.

    Continue Reading