The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) has issued a report on dog bites in the United States. According to the report, roughly 4.5 million dog bites occur annually in this country. Unfortunately, nearly one in five of those bites will become infected.
This does not mean you should avoid all dogs at all costs; dogs are often considered part of the family. They live with us and have been proven to reduce stress. Walking your dog helps increase exercise levels. They are also frequently companions for our children. However, dogs do sometimes bite. Obviously, this can be very painful, causing injury or nerve damage. Dog bites can also become infected, potentially causing illness or even death. Steps can be taken to prevent dog bites and reduce the risk of injury or illness.
Where Do Dog Bites Occur Most Often?
Most dog bite injuries, over half, happen at home with dogs that are known to us. Obviously, if a dog is in the household, the chances of an adult or child being bitten increases. The more dogs that are in the house, the greater the likelihood of being bitten. For example, when there are two or more dogs in the home, adults are five times more likely to be bitten than an adult living in a home without dogs.
Who Is Most Often Bitten by Dogs?
Children and men are most often bitten by dogs.
- For children, dog bites are most common between the ages of five to nine years old. Further, children more frequently require medical attention for dog bites than adults.
- Men are more frequently bitten by dogs than women.
What Should I Do If an Unfamiliar Dog Approaches Me That I Don’t Want to Interact With?
You can take steps to minimize your interactions with a dog. These include:
- Do not move, stay still;
- Remain calm and do not panic;
- Do not make direct eye contact with the dog;
- Do not make loud noises;
- Do say “No” in a deep, firm voice;
- Stand sideways toward the dog – do not square off with the dog, as this can appear aggressive toward dogs;
- Simply back away or just let the dog pass; and
- If needed, slowly raise your hands to protect your neck, keeping your elbows in.
How Can I Prevent Dog Bites?
There are a few basic steps you can take to help prevent dog bites and keep yourself safe.
Here are some do’s and don’ts:
- When you see a dog behaving strangely, if it is near a home, tell an adult at that home about the behavior;
- If you are knocked down by a dog, curl into a ball, put your hands over your ears and tuck your head; and
- Remain calm.
- Allow young children play unsupervised with a dog;
- Turn and run away from a dog;
- Encourage aggressive play by your own dog;
- Approach a dog that is unfamiliar with you;
- Make any loud noises or panic;
- Pet a dog that has not sniffed you first or that hasn’t seen you; or
- Bother a dog that is caring for puppies, eating, or sleeping.
If I Am Attacked or Bitten by a Dog, What Should I Do?
If you are attacked by a dog:
- Try to protect yourself using a jacket, bag or purse.
- If the dog knocks you down, curl into a ball, using your hands to protect your ears and keep your head tucked in.
- If you are bitten, get to a safe place and wash any wounds with soap and water. If injured, seek medical attention when, for example:
- If you have not had a tetanus shot in the last five years and the wound is deep.
- If the injury becomes red or swollen or if you become ill.
- If the bite is serious. This would include muscle or bone exposure, extreme pain, uncontrolled bleeding, or loss of function, for example.
- Dog bite victims risk getting rabies. It may be appropriate to contact the police department or animal control agency, particularly if the dog is acting strangely or is sickly or if you don’t know if the dog has been vaccinated against rabies.
- It is important to contact the owner. It needs to be determined if the dog has a current rabies vaccination. Try to get the rabies vaccine license number and the name of the veterinarian that gave the vaccine. Also, get the owner’s name, phone number and address.
Further steps depend on the nature of the wound.
For minor wounds:
- Immediately wash the wound with soap and water.
- Use an antibiotic cream on the wound.
- Use a clean bandage to cover the wound.
- Seek medical attention if the injury becomes, red, swollen, painful or warm. If the dog was acting strangely or you develop a fever, seek medical attention immediately.
For more significant, deep wounds:
- Stop the bleeding using pressure and a dry clean cloth.
- Call 911 if you cannot stop the bleeding or feel faint or weak.
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
- Seek medical attention immediately if:
- The wound appears infected. This would be indicated by redness, pain, warmth or swelling.
- You cannot determine if the dog has been vaccinated for rabies. You may need treatment for rabies.
What Diseases Can Dog Bites Cause?
There are many diseases potentially caused by dog bites, including:
- Rabies. In the United States, rabies is quite rare. However, it is also quite serious and you need to be aware of it. The rabies virus affects the brain and is almost always fatal if untreated.
- Tetanus. Tetanus is a bacteria that can result in rigid paralysis in humans. It is most problematic in deep wounds.
- MRSA. MRSA is an antibiotic resistant staph infection.
Understanding how to avoid dog bites potential problems can help you minimize the danger and stay safe.
If a dog does bite you in Atlanta and you suffer injuries, do not hesitate to contact the skilled and dedicated Georgia dog bite legal team at Bader Scott Injury Lawyers for a free consultation.