Being bitten by a dog – whether by a familiar animal or a strange one – is a nightmare situation for anyone. However, it’s also a situation that could happen to anyone, so it’s important that you know what to do from both a medical and a legal standpoint. This seven-step guide will provide you with information on what to do if you’re bitten by a dog.
1) Don’t Panic
This may sound obvious but dogs can sense panic in humans. Dogs interpret this as a sign of weakness and it may lead them to attempt another attack. Even domesticated animals can fall prey to their own innate predatory instincts. Back away slowly and don’t make eye contact with the animal.
2) Assess The Wound
If you’re by yourself when the attack occurs, call somebody else and have them come and meet you – especially if you’re out and don’t have any way to attend to the bite yourself. If the wound is small, you can clean it with yourself with tap water – and while it seems to be generally agreed upon that you should apply an antiseptic, Patient.co.uk notes that antiseptics may damage skin or otherwise delay healing. Essentially, if you’re uncertain about how to proceed, consult your doctor.
However, if the wound is large, deep, or dirty, it’s best to leave cleaning to the professionals. Use a clean cotton pad or bandage to apply pressure to the injury until you get to a doctor. Keep the wound elevated to minimise any potential infection from spreading.
3) Seek Immediate Medical Attention
As previously mentioned, serious injuries should be brought to a doctor’s attention right away. Dead or damaged skin will need to be trimmed or removed, stitches may be required (but only after a few days), and deeper bites may require an operation. Doctors may prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection, especially if you have immunity complications. Equally, you may need a tetanus booster if you’re not up to date on your shots. While rabies isn’t a problem in the UK, animal bites that occur abroad require treatment as soon as possible after the incident to prevent the development of rabies.
4) Keep An Eye On The Wound
Even if your wound is small and you don’t feel the need to get it checked, there’s still a risk of complications occurring. If the skin surrounding a wound becomes more tender, painful, swollen, or inflamed, see a doctor. Falling sick after getting bitten is also a warning sign; should you start to feel ill, get medical attention as soon as possible. If you live by yourself, let a friend or family member know that you’ve been bitten so that they can be on call if anything more serious occurs.
5) Get The Owner’s Contact Details
If the dog that’s bitten you belongs to someone, get their contact details. This way, you’ll be able to get your hands on any relevant information for the doctor – such as the dog’s immunisation history.
6) Take A Picture Of The Wound
Even if it’s serious and you need to rush to the hospital right away, your mobile phone is likely equipped with a camera – all it takes is a quick snap. It’s handy evidence of the wound’s severity in case you need to claim compensation from the dog’s owner.
7) Contact The Police And Animal Control Authority
If the dog that bit you was a stray, then it’s especially important to notify the relevant authorities to ensure that nobody else gets bitten – particularly if the attack was unprovoked. You need to consider the context of the attack: did the dog attack you out of nowhere, or did you antagonise it in some way? If you were causing irritation or pain to the animal, or approached a dog trying to guard its young or its food, then be sure to include those details when you report the incident.
The police will take note of the event, dog, and owner (if there is one) to see if the dog has attacked anyone before and if further action needs to be taken. They will also give you a crime reference number – essential if you’re claiming against insurance or for compensation.
The local animal control authority will keep a close eye on the dog and its owner to see if the dog is considered dangerous; the attack on you could have been a one off. They will take it upon themselves that no other incidents occur as a result of the dog’s behaviour.
These steps are important to follow, but the advice of a medical professional is always best. If you experience severe setbacks or complications as the result of a dog bite – being unable to work, for example – you should definitely look into claiming dog bite compensation.
Have you ever been on the receiving end of a dog bite? How did you deal with it? Share your experience and advice in the comments.
Dog bites are always unpleasant and occasionally downright nasty. Follow this guide for the steps you need to take if you’re bitten by a dog.
Doug Walton is a dog lover but also understands the importance of exercising caution around animals. This guide shows you the medical and legal steps to take if you’re bitten by a dog. He recommends the Accident Advice Helpline if you’ve been attacked.