Dog bites can cause significant damage and lead to infection if not treated properly.
If you have fallen victim to a dog bite injury, do not make the common mistakes made by many. Do not delay care and do not underestimate the complications that can arise.
We recommend specific methods of triage and care to prevent these dog bite injury complications. Continue reading below to find out more.
If you are reading this article, chances are you or someone you know has been bitten by a dog. Your adrenaline may be high, but do your best to remain calm.
You need to triage the area first to determine the level of care needed. Follow these steps:
1. Inspect the Dog Bite Injury
The first step is to locate the dog bite injury (or injuries) and inspect the bite wound. Once you have located it, you can better determine the severity of the injury. Pay special attention to any puncture wounds, bleeding, or torn skin.
If you notice any of these injuries, put on rubber gloves if available and proceed with the next steps to applying basic first aid.
2. Clean the Wound
After your initial triage, and even if you don’t see any broken skin, move to clean the area. The importance of this step cannot be overstated as an infection is the biggest concern in regard to a dog bite injury.
If the wound is bleeding, apply pressure to help your blood clot. Apply pressure by covering the wound with your hands, gauze, or a clean cloth for 15 minutes. Do your best to avoid checking the wound or it will take longer for clotting to occur.
Using a gentle soap and warm water, lather the soap on the skin and gently massage for 1 minute before rinsing. We recommend using antibacterial soap if possible, to help fight infection.
If you see puncture wounds or broken skin, make sure to also irrigate these areas. While tap water may be used for this, we recommend a saline solution. Additionally, if there is any debris or loose skin remaining after irrigation, gently remove this from the wound before applying antibiotic ointment.
3. Bandage the Wound
After the wound has been cleaned, bandage the wound to protect it from dirt and other contaminants. If the wound consists of small lacerations or puncture wounds, a basic adhesive bandage will suffice. However, if the wound is more severe, you should utilize other materials.
For larger, bleeding wounds, apply sterile gauze and wrap with rolled gauze and cohesive wrap. You want the wrapping tight enough so it will not slip, but not tight enough to cut off circulation and cause swelling.
4. Confirm Vaccination History
Now that the wound received initial first aid, it’s important to collect more information about the dog. If possible, ask the pet’s owner if the dog has received its rabies vaccine and obtain a copy of the vaccination records. Rabies is deadly, so the possibility of infection should not be taken lightly.
Rabies is spread through contact with mucous membranes such as from a scratch or dog bite wound. It can take anywhere from days to months or years for symptoms of rabies infection to begin to show. Symptoms include difficulty swallowing, drooling, fever, and difficulty with balance.
For more severe wounds from being attacked by a dog and you suspect it could be rabid, your doctor may recommend that you receive the rabies vaccine. However, you should discuss this option with your doctor as it may not be necessary and can be cost-prohibitive.
5. Visit Your Doctor
After applying first aid and confirming the dog’s vaccination history, consider visiting your doctor.
You may not need to seek medical treatment for superficial bite wounds. If the skin was not broken, and there are no obvious breakages of any bones, it may be appropriate to monitor the area.
If the skin is broken and bleeding, or if there are puncture wounds present, it is a good idea to seek out medical attention. As we said, infection is one of the most prominent concerns in regard to a dog bite injury. It’s easier to prevent an infection than to treat one.
You can discuss the need for additional wound cleaning, antibiotics, or anti-inflammatories in the event of discomfort.
6. Ice the Wound
It is common to experience discomfort following a dog bite and ice can be a great resource to minimize this discomfort. Ice will also help minimize damage to your skin as it prevents swelling.
When icing a dog bite injury, you can use either plain ice or an ice pack. If you use plain ice, we recommend placing it in a plastic bag to prevent a mess once the ice melts.
Ice and ice packs should not come into direct contact with your skin as this can cause more damage due to the low temperature. If you elect to ice your wound, wrap the ice or ice pack in a cloth before applying it to the injured area.
You may ice for 15 to 20 minutes up to every hour, though check with your doctor for recommendations regarding icing a wound.
7. Maintain Care of the Wound
While initial first aid is an important part of treatment for a dog bite injury, an infection can still occur if you do not maintain care of the wound.
The bandage of a minor bite wound can be removed after 1 to 2 days. However, more significant wounds may need to be bandaged longer.
If this is the case, you will need to change the bandage at least every 1 to 2 days. If the bandage becomes wet or dirty, or if there is a presence of bleed-through, the bandage should be changed sooner.
Leaving bandages on too long, especially if they are wet and dirty, will slow the healing process and will likely result in an infection.
When changing the bandage, you will want to gently clean the area, apply a fresh layer of antibiotic ointment or cream, and rebandage with new materials.
Between changes, allow time to rest to promote healing and keep the area elevated if at all possible to minimize swelling.
8. Monitor for signs of infection
Even if first aid is properly applied and you’ve visited your doctor, an infection can still occur.
Symptoms of infection begin to show 2 to 3 days following an injury. These symptoms include:
- Pain – a healing wound should hurt less over time, but with an infection, the pain will worsen instead
- Redness – increasing redness and streak-like formations
- Swelling – the tissue will become inflamed and expand
- Heat – tissue may be warm-to-the-touch and can even radiate heat
- Discharge – the presence of yellow discharge or pus
9. Seek legal assistance
Being attacked by a dog can result in significant financial and emotional strain, especially if you’ve been seriously injured. While we hope that the owner of the dog is present and that they will accept responsibility for any costs incurred from an incident, that is not always the case.
If you have not received compensation, you may wonder what to do after a dog biting accident.
You might consider seeking legal action in this case. A dog bite injury lawyer can help you navigate the complex process of pursuing compensation. They will start by helping you understand if you have enough of a case as well as what you will need for evidence.
If you think you might need to seek the help of a dog bite injury lawyer, you need to, make notes of what happened, record details of the injury and take pictures, and seek out medical attention, even for minor injuries.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
Since there are many details to consider following a dog bite injury, it is common for victims to overlook some of the more important ones. It’s also common to underestimate the severity of a dog bite, which prevents people from administering proper care to their injuries.
The top three mistakes dog bite victims make are not bandaging a wound, forgetting to clean a wound regularly, and not going to the doctor.
If you have any doubts about whether or not to see a doctor, we recommend you make an appointment. Even if you think you don’t need to see a doctor, it is always best to consult a medical professional when there is an injury or illness.
Take Care of Your Dog Bite Injury
Now that we discussed how to administer proper care to a dog bite injury by assessing, cleaning, and bandaging the wound, you are ready to apply what you know. If you have any hesitation, remember you can always visit your doctor.
You should also feel confident in seeking representation if you are having difficulties obtaining compensation for your injuries.
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