Background on Dog Bites

An estimated 4.5 million dog bites occur annually in the U.S. This estimation may be low since not all victims report the incident or seek medical attention for the injury. Although dog bites can be unprovoked, dogs may bite for a variety of reasons. The cause may be as basic as the dog not feeling well or being in pain due to illness or injury. The dog could also be stressed and bite to defend itself, its territory or its possessions. Regular veterinary care can help monitor and maintain an animal’s health to prevent medical causes that lead to bites.

Socialization Reduces Likelihood of Dog Bites

A dog owner can help make their pet feel more at ease through the process of socialization; this prepares the dog to be comfortable interacting with all types of people, animals and situations. Another way dog owners can help prevent dog bites is by not allowing their dogs to run loose.  Dogs should be kept in a fenced yard and leashed when going for walks. Regularly walking and exercising a dog is a great socialization tool which helps keep it healthy and mentally stimulated.

Tips to Avoid Being Bitten by a Dog

There are many tips that you can follow to avoid a dog bite.  Children are more likely to be bitten than adults, so it is imperative to teach these suggestions:

  • Avoid interactions with any unfamiliar animals.
  • Respect the dog’s body language, if it appears tense or nervous, keep your distance. If it tries to avoid you by walking away, allow it to do so.
  • If the dog is growling or snapping, do not approach it or make sudden movements as that might stimulate the dog’s predator instincts.
  • Allow the dog time to get used to you before petting it. Prior to attempting to pet a dog, ask the owner’s permission to do so.
  • If a dog appears to be confrontational, do not make direct eye contact and do not start running from the dog.
  • Report bites to the proper officials, such as the local rabies control authority, animal control officer or local health department. For children, a teacher or parent is a good reporting resource.
  • Do not leave babies or young children unsupervised with any dog.
  • Do not pull the dog’s ears or tail; climb on the animal’s back or try to ride it; tease it, including taking its toys, treats or food; bother the dog while it is sleeping or eating; or bother a mother dog while she is tending to her young.

What To Do If Approached by an Unfamiliar Dog

  • Remain calm and still and do not make loud noises.
  • Stand with the side of your body facing or partially facing the dog. Do not make direct eye contact or directly face the dog.
  • Say “no” or “go home” in a firm voice.
  • After the dog passes, slowly and calmly back away.

What to Do if Bitten or Attacked

-Place an item, like a purse, bag, or jacket, between you and the attacking dog.

  • If the dog knocks you down, curl into a ball with your head tucked and your hands over your ears and neck to protect them.
  • If possible, go to a safe place away from the biting dog to prevent further attacks and injuries.
  • If available, get the owner’s contact information so the rabies vaccination status of the animal can be verified by the attending physician, hospital, veterinarian or local animal control authorities.
  • Immediately wash the wound thoroughly with soap and large amounts of water. This is one of the most crucial measures to take for prevention of infection.
  • Seek medical attention from a health care provider. A physician will determine the need for post exposure prophylaxis, antibiotics, or surgical closure of the wounds. Dog bites have a high potential for bacterial infection.
  • Lastly, report the bite to your local animal control/rabies control authority.

The purpose of this article is not to make people fear dogs or feel that no dog can be trusted.  Dogs provide us with wonderful companionship, love, comfort and protection. There are an estimated 78 million dogs in U.S. households, so contact with dogs and the probability of bite incidents are high.  The goal of this article is to educate you and your family on how to prevent unfortunate encounters with dogs, potential bite scenarios and to keep you safe!

Have an Awesome April,

Dr. Bonnie