If you and your family own a dog, you’re in good company! There are more than 89 million dogs living with their owners in the U.S. While “man’s best friend” can be an asset to your household, unfortunately, owning a dog also comes with risks. In fact, 4.7 million dog bites occur in the U.S. each year, resulting in 800,000 patients seeking medical attention for their injuries and infections. Here’s everything you need to know about what to do if a dog bites you, and how to handle this common, potentially serious injury.
1) Most dog bite victims are children.
More than half of dog bite victims are children, who usually sustain worse injuries from dog bites than adults do. The most commonly affected children to suffer a dog bite are boys between the ages of 5-9 years of age. Children ages 4 years and younger are 4 times more likely than any other age group to sustain a fatal dog bite. With that in mind, it’s especially important for parents of young children to be aware of the risks dogs can pose to children, and provide adequate supervision when their children are around dogs – whether the pets belong to their family or someone else’s.
2) Dog bites can cause serious injuries.
Because dogs tend to have large, blunt teeth, they can do significant damage when they bite. The type of injury they cause depends on where the bite is. Dog bites can cause lacerations, tendon or ligament injuries, fractured bones, torn blood vessels and head injuries.
3) Dog bites can cause serious infections.
Dogs have been know to have as many as 400 different strains of bacteria in their mouths, which means that when they bite a human, the bacteria can be transferred into the wound and cause a significant infection. Dog bites can also become infected when an open wound becomes contaminated with bacteria on the outside of the patient’s skin or in the surrounding environment. Proper wound care is critical in preventing serious complications.
4) There are several things you can do to prevent dog bites.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has issued several recommendations for preventing dog bites. They recommend asking permission from the owner before approaching a dog, being still when an owner introduces their dog to you, and avoiding contact with dogs who seem to be acting strangely. The CDC also recommends that you don’t make loud noises around dogs, don’t pet them when they’re eating or sleeping, and don’t pet someone else’s dog until you’ve allowed it to sniff you first.
5) The sooner you seek medical care, the better.
Dog bites require immediate attention to repair any damaged skin and tissue, and to irrigate out bacteria to try to prevent an infection. Also, whenever you have a break in the skin, it’s important to make sure that you’re up to date on your tetanus vaccine. While rabies among domesticated animals in the U.S. is exceptionally rare, if you sustain a dog bite while traveling abroad, it’s important to seek medical attention to determine if you require vaccinations to prevent a rabies infection.
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