Dogs have been known as man’s best friend for a long time. We’ve been living alongside these animals in a reciprocal relationship for at least 40,000 years but possibly even longer. Of course, not all dog-human interactions are pleasant.
The following will explore one of the worst-case scenarios in that regard: getting bitten by a dog. The focus will be on medical and legal advice, but there are some other tips there as well.
Get Away From The Dog
Immediately after being bitten, you should get away from the dog in question. This will help reduce the risk of being bitten again. Sometimes the dog’s owner is near and will take the dog away; other times, a dog is on its own.
Shouting “no” at the dog, telling it firmly to go home or “get going,” can often be effective as many dogs have a loose grasp on basic dog instructions.
It’s usually not a good idea to run from a dog as dogs tend to give chase. Of course, depending on the level of aggression, this might be your only option. Dogs are not generally good at jumping or climbing, so getting up somewhere high, like on top of a car or in a tree, can be a good option as well.
If the dog is your own, try to situate yourself in a different room from the pet. This can give each of you a moment to calm down.
Take Photos And Gather Information
If you’re able to, take photos of the bite and the dog/owner. If the owner is near and able to speak (they might be restraining their dog or too emotional to have a proper conversation with), ask whether the dog is updated on their vaccinations.
This is information a doctor might want to know, so they know which tests to run. You can also ask for the owner’s contact information.
If the interaction between yourself and the owner is too difficult because of anger, pain, or the rising sense you have that a conflict is coming, don’t engage. There should be no discussion of fault or blame. There should be no insults or name-calling.
Don’t interact with someone if that interaction is likely to get out of hand. Remember, if this turns into a legal proceeding, anything you say can be used within that proceeding. It’s better to say nothing than the wrong thing.
Depending on the severity of the bite, you might need basic first-aid before moving locations. If your skin isn’t broken, you want to wash the bite area with soap and warm water. Antibacterial lotion can be applied as a precaution if you’d like.
If the skin is broken but not bleeding, you’re still going to wash the area with warm water and soap, but once that’s done, you’re going to apply pressure to the wound to encourage a little bit of bleeding. The blood coming out will help flush away germs.
If your skin is already bleeding, this step has been completed by your body, so it isn’t necessary.
Once a little blood has come out (and taken the germs with it), lay a clean material atop the wound and apply gentle pressure to stop the flow of blood. If the bite is somewhere on your body that’s easy to raise, like your hand, elevate that part to further help slow the bleeding.
Finally, you’re going to want to apply antibacterial lotion and a sterile bandage.
If you’re moving somewhere safe before tending to the wound, like to your car or home, be aware that a quick response is important. The sooner you treat the wound, the lower the risk of bacterial infection. Dogs put a lot of nasty things in their mouths; infection is a serious concern.
Further Medical Attention
Regularly monitor the wound for signs of infection. Infection can look like redness or swelling. Heat and tenderness to the touch can also indicate infection is taking place. If the wound seems to worsen at all, you feel increased pain or develop a fever, seek a doctor’s help immediately.
As well, some dog bites require medical intervention. About 1 in every 5 dog bites needs a doctor’s oversight. If the bite was given by a dog with no vaccine history or an unknown vaccine history (or if the animal is acting strange or seems sick), you should go to the doctor immediately.
If the wound doesn’t stop bleeding, is intensely painful, results in exposed muscle, tendon, or bone, reduces the function of a limb (such as not being able to bend your ankle), or leaks pus or fluid, you should go to the doctor.
As well, if you cannot recall when your last tetanus shot was, you should go to the doctor. Children regularly get their tetanus shots at standard doctor’s visits. Adults are supposed to get a booster shot every ten years.
There are a few reasons you might want to seek legal support. If you feel the dog is unsafe and likely to harm someone else in the future, you probably want to reach out to law enforcement.
As well, if you were hurt but a dog while working—one dog bite lawyer in Detroit emphasizes that postal and utility employees are among the most likely to be bitten—you will be dealing with your workplace’s insurance provider.
In the case that you’re speaking to either the police or an insurance company, you should always talk to a lawyer first. All too often, people are encouraged to take one form of action based on convenience for the person receiving the report or claim rather than what’s best for the individual.
A lawyer can explain all the options available, so you can make a better choice for yourself.
You might also be in need of compensation due to pain experienced or expenses associated with the bite. This is also an instance where you should seek out a qualified lawyer. It’s important that you don’t sign anything or make any verbal agreements with the dog owner, your workplace, an insurance provider, or law enforcement until you’ve received legal counsel.
The above information should help you deal with the medical and legal components of being bitten by a dog. It’s also important to take your mental health seriously at this time.
Trauma that isn’t properly processed can negatively impact your well-being and lead to severe suffering, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. If you need help with this, reach out to a trusted friend or mental health professional.