Steps to Take After a Dog Bite

While dogs are more than happy to provide you with endless love and companionship, it is crucial that you take the necessary steps to ensure your safety and that of your loved ones. Unfortunately, more than 4.5 million Americans suffer from dog bites each year. Quite often, it is young children. 

Dog bites are not just harmful to your health but expensive to treat. Since they carry a ton of medical, legal, and financial ramifications, you need to know how to treat a dog bite. You can administer first aid in some instances, while others require urgent medical attention. Keep reading on the steps you should take after being bitten by a dog and how to prevent infection!

Get a Quick History of the Dog

Picture this: you’re casually walking down the street, and your dog or a friendly neighborhood canine ends up biting you. To prevent a bacterial infection from developing, you must tend to the injury right away. Before administering first aid or calling healthcare professionals, you will need to assess the severity of the wound.

To prevent further harm from the dog, you should put some distance between the dog and yourself. Even if it is your dog, it’s important that you take the necessary precautions to prevent yourself from being bitten again. 

In the event you were bitten by an unknown dog, reach out to the dog owner if they are nearby and ask them for the dog’s vaccination history. Consider getting the owner’s name and contact information. The dog may likely be unaccompanied during the time of the attack. Reach out to the people nearby and ask them if they are familiar with the dog and, hopefully, its owner.

Administer First Aid

The severity of the bite determines the type of first aid you will need to administer. Here is how you should be approaching it based on the condition of your skin at the time of the bite:

Broken: Wash the bitten area with warm water and clean any residue with soap. You will need to gather some courage and press lightly on the injury. Doing so will release a tiny amount of blood from the affected area and flush out any germs. 

Not Broken: If your skin was healthy before being bitten by the dog, all you are required to do is clean it with warm water and soap. If you have antibacterial lotion nearby, apply it to the affected area as a precaution. 

In case the wound is severe, it may actively bleed. Lightly press down on the wound with a clean cloth to stop blood flow. Before covering up the wound with a sterile bandage, follow up with a generous application of antibacterial lotion.

When to Seek Immediate Medical Attention

Not all dog bites are the same; some will require immediate medical attention to prevent them from worsening. If you notice any of the following after getting bitten by a dog, seek medical attention immediately. 

  • The wound is discharging pus or is oozing
  • You develop a fever
  • Swelling
  • Actively bleeding
  • The pain worsens
  • Tissue and bones are visible
  • There is a loss of mobility in affected limbs

Monitoring a Dog Wound

Regardless of the severity of the dog wound, wounds should be monitored for signs of bacterial infection until they are completely healed. Keep checking on the injury regularly to see if it shows any of the following symptoms

  • Soft to touch
  • Becomes swollen
  • Becomes red
  • Feels warm

If the wound continues to worsen and you feel increasing pain or start to develop a fever, set up an appointment with your doctor immediately.

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Possible Complications from a Dog Bite Wound

Dog bites can present an array of complications, from infections to rabies and even death. These are a few complications that can possibly arise from a dog wound.


A dog’s mouth carries a variety of bacteria. These include Pasteurella, capnocytophaga, and even MRSA. Even though there are no current cases of dog bites transmitting MRSA, they can still prove harmful if you have a weakened immune system or are suffering from diabetes. If you notice any signs of infection after being bitten by a dog, get checked by a doctor.


As with any other injury, you will notice scarring on your skin after being bitten by a dog, especially the larger breeds. It will likely fade away with time. However, in cases of severe scarring, you can get it reduced via medical techniques of grafting and plastic surgery.

Broken Bones and Damage to Muscle and Nerves

If a dog bite is deep enough, it can result in broken, fractured, or splintered bones, especially in the legs, hands, and feet. Additionally, if a bite is deep enough, it can cause significant damage to the blood vessels, nerves, and muscles under the skin. Don’t be thrown off by a minor wound, as this can occur even if the affected area is small.

The impact of the dog bite does not end with medical care. Once your doctor has ruled out the possibility of an infection developing, as seen with attorneys who work with dog bite injuries, it is time that you seek legal routes to get compensation for your injury. Here are the steps you should follow to prevent someone else from getting bitten by the same dog.

Identify the Dog and Its Owner

Proceed to identify the owner of the dog immediately, preferably the one who had custody of the dog at the time of the attack. Request that they provide you with names, current addresses, and proof of recent vaccinations against diseases, including rabies. Not only will it help the healthcare professionals in assisting you, but it will also prevent you from undergoing a series of rabies shots that can cost up to $3500!

If you cannot gather the required information, you will have to bear the costs of paramedics and vaccination, which can cost a total of $5,500 per day! 

Keep Gathering Information

The job does not end after identifying the dog and its owner. Proceed to find more information about the dog’s history. Has the dog been found responsible for biting incidents before attacking you? Was the dog legally designated as potentially dangerous by the authorities? The more information you have, the better it is!

Photograph Your Injuries

Even though it will be the last thing on your mind to do, it is crucial that you photograph your injuries even if you have to remove the bandage. Instead of doing it yourself, get in touch with your doctor and ask them to remove the bandages as they will be able to do it safely. 

Proceed to photograph all your injuries. Make sure to capture the bruises, scratches, and, if possible, the torn, bloody clothing and the location at which the dog attacked. Also, do not forget to request a full medical report detailing your injuries and their respective severity.

File a Report

Whether the injury was severe or minor, you must file a dog bite report with the relevant authorities in your area. This will legally register your case and keep track of it throughout its journey. Once the issue is reported, the authorities can take steps toward preventing the same dog from biting other people. 

If a case is not registered, there will be no paper trail, and even if the authorities wanted to, they would not be able to take decisive action.

Get in Touch with an Attorney

Paying off medical bills related to dog injuries is no easy task and can cause a significant financial strain. Get in touch with an attorney specializing in dog bite injuries right away. When it comes to legal issues surrounding dog bites, they can be challenging to navigate on your own since you may not have the requisite legal knowledge. However, if there is one person who will look after your best interests after your doctor, it is without a doubt your attorney.

Keep a Journal

It may sound ridiculous, but keeping a journal can not only come in handy to keep track of the injuries but also prove to be helpful when you file for compensation legally. Legal professionals say that it can be a while before your dog bite claim is processed entirely by the court, and a journal can present the events, expenses, and severity of the dog bite in an efficient manner. 

Determine Why It Happened

If your own pet bit you, you must try to figure out why they took such an action. Did the dog feel threatened? Has it been suffering from any medical conditions that may result in aggressive behavior? Whatever the reason, discipline your dog and take it to the veterinarian to rule out any medical issues.

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