With 75 million dogs in America, it’s a good idea to know about dog bite treatment. The risk for bites is highest for dog owners, and for children between the ages of five and nine. Although dogs have rounded teeth, the pressure of their bites can cause significant damage to skin, tissue, muscle, bones, nerves, and blood vessels. Rabies is a big concern, too. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 4.5 million dog bites each year. Since many people don’t report attacks or seek medical care, the actual number is probably much higher. What should you do if your child or someone else is bitten by a dog? Here are the items to have on hand, and the treatment steps to take.
- Gauze pads
- Terry cloth towels
- Soap and water
- Saline solution
- Antibiotic ointment
- First aid bandages
- Separate the victim and the dog. Move the dog bite victim to a safe place, away from the attack dog. This will prevent further bites and injuries. Of course, use caution and wear protective gear around the assailant dog, if necessary, to avoid injury to yourself.
- Control the bleeding. Control bleeding by putting direct pressure on the dog bite wound. Gauze pads are good because they hold the blood on the wound and promote clotting. Terry cloth towels work almost as well.
- Clean the wound. After the bleeding has stopped, clean the wound with soap and water. Wash away as much dirt as possible. Health care professionals use a saline (salt water) solution for irrigating dirt and bacteria away from the wound.
- Dress the wound. Put a thin layer of antibiotic ointment on the wound before covering it. Use clean, dry first aid bandages to cover the wound.
- Watch for signs of infection. If the skin has minimal abrasions, watch for signs of infection. These include redness, swelling, heat, and pus. Most dog bites cause bacterial infections, like streptococcus and staphylococcus.
- Seek medical attention, if needed. If the bite caused a severe skin break, like a laceration or deep puncture wound, seek medical care immediately. Some bites require stitches, and facial wounds usually require surgery.
- Determine the dog’s rabies status. Find out the status of the dog’s rabies immunization, whether or not you seek medical care. If the dog was not immunized, the victim may require rabies therapy. This should begin as soon as possible.
- Determine the victim’s tetanus status. Find out the status of the victim’s tetanus immunization. Medical professionals need to know the victim’s current medications and allergies, too.