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Dog Bite Treatment: What To Do If Bitten By A Dog

dog bite treatment

Most of us are aware of what to do when you get a cut or if you faint. But not many know about the first-aid measures to follow if bitten by a dog. Yes, you heard it right! Whether it is a pet dog or street dog, it is important to know about the first-aid treatment of a dog bite. There are numerous cases of rabies, a condition caused due to an animal bite (dogs being most common), all around the world. According to a 2018 study published in the journal PLoS One[1], India contributes to more than 36% of global deaths caused due to rabies every year. Moreover, the majority of the cases of a dog bite is from free-roaming dogs. But this doesn’t mean that pet dogs do not bite. So here’s a quick read on dog bite treatment.

Dog Bite First-Aid: What To Do If Bitten By A Dog

The first and foremost thing to do when attacked by a dog is to protect yourself. You can put your bag, jacket or purse to prevent the dog from biting you. If you are knocked down, then curl into a ball and place your hands on the neck and ears and tuck your head in. Do consult a doctor immediately to know how severe the wounds are and get proper treatment at the earliest.  If you have a dog at home, do ensure to get it vaccinated to prevent complications caused due to a dog bite.

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The Centre For Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) recommends few first-aid measures to follow after bitten by a dog based on the types of wounds.

If you have minor wounds such as scratches or bruises due to a dog bite then:

-Wash the wounds with clean water and soap to clear the area off the blood and saliva.

-Apply an antiseptic/antibacterial cream or lotion to lower the risk of bacterial infection due to open wounds

-Do not tie a piece of cloth around the wound but keep the wound open as it allows the wound to dry.

-Consult a doctor immediately (preferably within the first 24 hours after bitten by a dog) and get an anti-rabies injection to prevent complications.

If you have deep wounds such as if it is bleeding or flesh is exposed then:

– Apply pressure onto the wound with the help of clean and dry cloth to stop bleeding

-Wash the wound with clean water and soap, if there is no bleeding

-If you feel weak or if you feel like fainting, then do get medical help immediately

-If the bleeding fails to stop or if you experience redness and swelling in the affected area, then do visit a hospital.

Do consult a doctor:

-If the wound causes extreme pain or exposes muscle or bones

-If the wound becomes warm or if you experience fever

-If the bite is deep and it is more than five years that you had a tetanus shot

Dog Bite: How Is It Treated?

Your doctor will decide the mode of treatment based on the severity of the wound and the bite. In most cases, your doctor might recommend an injection or a vaccine for a dog bite. Dr Pradip Shah, Consultant Physician, Fortis Hospital says that for minor scratches, vaccination is the most effective mode of dog bite treatment. However, if the bite is deep, then you might have to get an injection, which is an anti-rabies immunoglobulin.

If the bite is due to a pet dog, you might have to take three injections as there are high chances that the dog might be vaccinated. The first injection should be taken on the day of a dog bite, the second one after three days and the third after seven days of the dog bite. If the dog bite is due to a stray dog, then you may have to take at least five to seven injections with the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh dose of the injections after an interval of a week each between two consequent doses, or as advised by your doctor. In mild cases or scratches, three doses of injection might be advised. In most cases, doctors avoid stitching the wound unless it is on the face or if the wound has affected any vital organ.

Remember that your doctor’s decision will be final when it comes to treatment of dog bite as it will be based on your condition and the severity of the bog bite. It is wise to avoid applying home remedies or any lotion for the wounds to heal without consulting your doctor.

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Dog Bite Treatment: What Will Happen If You Do Not Get Treated?

There are times when people tend to ignore dog scratch or fail to consult a doctor for a dog bite. But it is important to report the dog bite to your doctor and get the proper treatment as not treating it on time can even lead to death. Here is a list of diseases you can get from a dog bite:

Rabies: It is one of the most common and serious diseases caused due to dog bites. It is a virus that affects the brain and can even cause death after the symptoms start to appear. It spreads through the saliva of a dog infected with rabies or through dog bite. The disease can be prevented by vaccinating the dogs. This is the reason why people who are bitten by a dog should report it to the local government agency for vaccination of dogs or if a dog starts to act strangely.

Capnocytophaga: It is a condition caused by the bacteria Capnocytophaga which spreads through close contact of cats and dogs including a scratch or a bite. This bacteria do not make the animals sick but can affect people with low immunity.

Pasteurella: It mostly causes painful infection at the site of the dog bite. It is a type of bacteria which can cause serious complications such as difficulty in moving and swelling in joints in people with low immunity.

Tetanus: If the wound is deep, then it can also increase the risk of tetanus. It is a condition that is caused by the bacteria Clostridium tetani, which produces a toxin that can lead to paralysis.

Anyone can suffer a dog bite but knowing about the first-aid and its treatment can lower your risk of serious health complications. If you encounter a dog, it is best to stand still and not run. Do not panic or make loud noises. Do not avoid or ignore even minor scratches. Avoid disturbing a dog that is sleeping or eating and never let a child play with a dog unsupervised as it can increase the risk of being bitten by a dog. Stay safe, stay healthy!

(The article is reviewed by Dr. Lalit Kanodia, General Physician)

Recommended Reads:

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1. Tiwari HK, Vanak AT, O’Dea M, Robertson ID. Knowledge, attitudes and practices towards dog-bite related rabies in para-medical staff at rural primary health centres in Baramati, western India. PLoS One. 2018 Nov 16;13(11):e0207025.

2. Preventing Dog Bites. Injury, Violence and Safety. Centre For Disease Control and Prevention(CDC).

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