What to do if a dog bites you

Household 2 min read

If a dog bites you, treating yourself right away is important for preventing infection and other complications. Dog bite treatments vary based on the severity of the injury and whether the dog has received all its vaccinations. We spoke with Dr. Gary Richter, D.V.M., a veterinary health expert with Rover, to get his advice on treating and preventing dog bites.

How to treat a dog bite

You should first get medical attention if you need it when treating a dog bite. You should also report the bite to animal control and determine whether the dog is current on its rabies vaccine. It’s uncommon for dogs to have rabies. But if the dog’s vaccinations aren’t up to date, your doctor may recommend that you get a rabies vaccine. Because rabies is a slow-growing virus, it’s possible to prevent human illness after a bite. “But it’s not something you want to wait on,” says Richter.

What are the treatments for dog bites?

It depends on the severity of the injury. If it’s not severe, you may be able to treat a dog bite at home. Wash the wound with soap and water, apply antibacterial ointment, and bandage it. However, Richter recommends talking to a doctor rather than taking care of it at home if you are in significant pain or if the bite has broken the skin, even if the wound doesn’t appear serious. “There is a genuine concern for infection even if you wash it out well,” Richter said.

How can you prevent dog bites?

Ask first and give dogs a choice

Ask the dog’s owner if it’s okay to pet or play with it before approaching it. Remember that some dogs may be rescue dogs adjusting to a new home. When approaching a dog, hold out your hand and let them decide if they want to engage with you. If they don’t, don’t force it. Also, don’t reach over the top of a dog’s head, but pet under the chin or on their side.

Be cognizant of food and toys

Don’t approach a dog when they’re eating. Some dogs become aggressive if you interrupt them during mealtimes. Dogs can be protective of their toys, also known as resource-guarding. If you’re unsure how the dog will react, don’t find out the hard way.

Avoid threatening behaviors

Avoid looking at dogs directly in the eye. From the dog’s perspective, it’s a threatening gesture that could provoke them to bite. Having a pet can be expensive – you’re responsible for pet injuries, illness, and routine medical care. Learn about pet insurance coverages and how to shop around for pet insurance.

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