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    First Aid after a Dog Bite Attack

Reducing the Chance of Infection

First Aid after a Dog Bite Attack

If you even made eye contact with a strange dog or other animal and got attacked, you understand how high-risk certain dogs can be. Over 4.5 million people are bitten every year by dogs each year, according to government-funded studies. Dog bites and attacks by other pets like cats and even bats can lead to traumatic injuries and fatalities, often leading to deep head, face, and neck puncture wounds among small children.

Face injuries, even caused by puppies, can be gruesome. They don’t always heal without reconstructive surgery and often get infected. Although California dog bite laws can hold dog owners and other parties like negligent landlords and police liable for damages caused by their animals, emergency health care is sometimes far more important, especially during the first several minutes after the assault.

Below, Los Angeles dog bite lawyer Michael Ehline discusses his first-hand knowledge as a dog bite expert in dog bite treatment. This general information applies to most animal bites and even bite wounds by a wild animal, not just a severe dog bite wound. Ultimately, we will discuss how to treat and prevent infections, which can help victims file a claim seeking compensation for damages when dogs bite and break the skin.

Treating the Wounds – Circumstances

Your reaction to the dog attack and animal bite, of course, depends on what happened. Suppose a large, aggressive Rottweiler or a German shepherd severely mauled you. In that case, it should go without saying that you should go to a hospital for emergency care as soon as possible. After all, direct pressure and soap and water may not be helpful when you are bleeding heavily. Such attacks could require surgery or stitches, especially if they broke your skin, so you have to see a doctor.

Steps for Treating the Wound

  1. Clean and wash the wound, and make sure you are using soap and warm water
  2. Place a clean cloth over the wound gently to halt bleeding
  3. Administer an antibacterial ointment to the wound
  4. Cover the area with a sterile bandage
  5. Be vigilant for indications of infection
  6. Seek medical assistance if infection is suspected, rabies exposure is possible, or if the wound is significant.

In other cases, dog bites may be treatable with a visit to your family doctor and follow-up antibiotic ointment to prevent infection caused by bacteria in a dog’s mouth. However, most hospitals will likely say you will have to get rabies shots, especially in cases of wild animals like gophers.

Your doctor can adequately assess the attack’s seriousness and the best course of action and rule out any bite fever with basic disease control techniques. This may include vaccination shots or simple stitches. No matter what the case, your injuries should be treated, and the dog should be examined by a veterinarian and fully vaccinated, assuming it’s not put down so as to no longer pose a future threat.

You might be able to do this by yourself. Cleaning your wound under warm water with soap reduces the chance of infection. Follow this up with the topical use of alcohol or iodine to kill off germs transmitted by the bite or scratch (CAVEAT: puncture wounds are handled differently.) Let’s get into more detail about rabies prevention 101 and what animal control calls for, especially in cases of unknown dogs that the authorities or a pet owner can’t quarantine.

Providing Care for a Dog Bite

In the event of a dog bite, swift medical attention or minimal first aid is essential to minimize the potential for bacterial infection. You have to evaluate the wound’s severity, which is equally crucial, especially if you face a weakened immune system from a pre-existing illness. Depending on the circumstances, you might be capable of applying initial aid, while in certain situations, urgent medical intervention becomes necessary. In that case, after getting washed with a clean towel, shots, and stitches, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics and report your dog bite to the proper authorities, including local police, as a mandatory reporter.

Regardless of the dog’s ownership, whether it’s your pet or belongs to someone else, a dog bite can leave you feeling distressed. Should medical attention be required, reaching out for assistance is advisable instead of attempting to transport yourself to a medical facility.

Below, you’ll discover the recommended steps to follow following a dog bite incident, along with preventative measures to ward off infections. You simply have to take a few minutes to see a doctor, but pack this away in your mind for hasty stabilization of damaged tissue.

Inquire About the Dog’s Vaccination Record

Following a dog bite incident, your initial action should be to create distance between yourself and the dog to prevent further bites.

Once the immediate threat has passed and the bleeding stops, you must ascertain the dog’s vaccination status against rabies.

If the dog’s owner is present, request information regarding the dog’s vaccination history. Collect the owner’s name, phone number, and veterinarian’s contact details. If feasible, also request some form of identification.

When dealing with a stray dog, you have to inquire with witnesses about the dog’s identity and the owner’s location. Dog bites can occur within a familiar setting, such as your pet. To mitigate risks, the dog owner must take steps to ensure the dog remains up-to-date with rabies vaccinations. Even a well-behaved and gentle dog may exhibit occasional biting behavior.

Administering Initial Aid 101

The specific first aid you provide will be contingent upon the bite’s severity. Cleanse the area using warm water and soap if your skin remains intact. As a precautionary measure, an antibacterial lotion can be applied. Cleanse the area with warm water and soap for broken skin, then gently apply pressure to the wound to induce slight bleeding. This helps eliminate germs.

Should bleeding occur, place a clean cloth on the wound and apply gentle pressure to halt the flow. Proceed by using antibacterial lotion and covering with a sterile bandage.

Regardless of the bite’s magnitude, vigilance is required. Regularly inspect the wound for potential signs of infection, even for minor wounds you treat with running water, especially when kids get bit.

Keep watch for any of the following changes:

  • Redness and red streaks, black edges, yellow or green pus (watch for signs of fever over 100 degrees.)
  • Swelling
  • Warmth
  • Tenderness, when touched, does not resolve with over-the-counter pain meds or anti-inflammatories like Motrin.

Should the wound deteriorate, if pain intensifies, or if you experience fever, seeking immediate medical attention is crucial.

Reducing the Chance of Infection

Dog attacks can take all sorts of different types. Some may involve small dogs nipping at a person that comes too close. In other cases, severe scratches are a particular risk of infection, starting at the wound area. And in other cases, full-on attacks by large dogs could provoke severe injury, disfigurement, or even death.

In these cases, the injured party needs the most attention and advice. Should you find yourself in need of medical attention following a dog attack, do not panic. As noted, many ways exist to reduce the chance of suffering a more severe injury, scarring, or infection.

TIP: Never tease a strange dog, play with their toys or dog food bowl, etc., as they may feel threatened and show their teeth.

When to Seek Medical Assistance

Approximately 1 in 5 dog bites will require medical attention.

Always consult a doctor for a dog bite under the following circumstances:

  • The bite is inflicted by a dog with an uncertain rabies vaccination history or a dog displaying abnormal behavior or signs of illness
  • Bleeding doesn’t cease
  • Intense pain is experienced
  • The bite exposes bones, tendons, or muscles
  • Loss of function occurs, like an inability to flex fingers
  • The affected area appears red, swollen, or inflamed
  • Pus or fluid is discharged from the wound.

Additionally, seek medical help if:

  • You are uncertain about your last tetanus shot
  • Feelings of weakness, disorientation, or faintness arise
  • A fever is present.

Potential Complications from a Dog Bite

Dog bites can lead to various complications, such as infections, rabies, and nerve or muscle damage.

  1. Nerve and Muscle Damage: A deep bite, even if it appears small, can harm nerves, muscles, and blood vessels beneath the skin
  2. Broken Bones: Bites from larger dogs might lead to fractured or broken bones, especially in the hands, feet, or legs. Immediate medical help should be sought for suspected broken bones
  3. Rabies and Infection: Rabies is a severe viral illness that affects the central nervous system. The mouths of dogs contain bacteria, including staphylococcus, Pasteurella, and Capnocytophaga. Despite claims of MRSA transmission through dog bites, no recent reports validate this. When a dog bite breaks the skin, these bacteria can lead to bacterial infections. The risk is elevated in individuals with compromised immune systems or diabetes
  4. Tetanus: Tetanus, a bacterial disease, is rare in the U.S. due to routine vaccines in childhood. Adults should receive a tetanus booster every ten years. If signs of infection are detected after a dog bite, seeking medical attention is advisable. Rapid medical attention is necessary if the dog’s vaccination history is unknown or if they are not up-to-date on rabies vaccinations
  5. Scarring: Dog bites that tear the skin can cause scarring. Mild scarring can diminish over time, while more severe scarring or scars on visible areas might require medical procedures like grafting or plastic surgery
  6. Death: The occurrence of dog bite-related deaths in the U.S. is very infrequent. When they do occur, approximately 70% of fatalities involve children below ten years old.

It’s essential to promptly address any potential complications arising from a dog bite through appropriate medical care and professional advice.

Need for a Rabies Shot

If you’ve been bitten by a dog displaying signs of rabies, such as erratic behavior or frothing at the mouth, it’s advisable to seek a rabies vaccine. Rabies is a potentially fatal disease, but immediate medical intervention can prevent its progression, rendering it 100% preventable. Rabies in humans is uncommon in the U.S., and dog transmission is infrequent due to widespread vaccination and preventive efforts. However, if there are concerns about rabies transmission from a dog bite, obtaining a rabies post-exposure vaccine is wise.

The vaccine entails a series of four injections administered over several weeks. Additionally, a rabies immune globulin injection is part of the treatment protocol. Immediate medical attention is essential to address potential rabies exposure.

Preventing Infection After a Dog Bite

Dog bites can introduce harmful bacteria into the body, potentially leading to severe and even fatal infections if left untreated.

Immediate action is vital:

  1. Clean the Wound: Wash the dirty area around the wound promptly of any dried blood or dirt after the bite occurs. Utilize topical antibiotics like povidone-iodine in and around broken skin that is left open, so long as it is not too deep.
  2. Cover and Change Bandages: Cover the wound and replace bandages daily to protect against contamination.
  3. Monitor for Signs of Infection: Stay vigilant for signs of infection. Symptoms can manifest within 24 hours up to 14 days after the bite, depending on the infection type.
  4. Swift Medical Attention: Infections can escalate rapidly. If infection signs arise, consult a doctor immediately. Oral or intravenous antibiotics might be necessary.
  5. Complete Antibiotics Course: If antibiotics are prescribed, adhere to the full treatment course, usually lasting 1 to 2 weeks. Even if the infection improves, continuing medication is crucial to prevent recurrence.

By taking these proactive measures, people can significantly reduce the risk of infection and promote healing.

Outlook and Preventive Measures

Dealing with dog bites requires attention due to the potential for severe complications when left untreated. Commonly, bacterial infections can emerge as a hard complication from dog bites. Prompt medical attention is crucial if any signs of infection arise, especially in cases of deep punctures leading to instanced streptococcus exposure.

To safeguard against dog bites and their associated complications:

  • Vaccinate Your Dog: Inoculating your own dog against rabies is a proactive step. This, along with avoiding unfamiliar dogs, is an effective defense against dog bites.
  • Exercise Caution: Never approach an unknown dog, regardless of its appearance. The rule applies to both adorable-looking dogs and those you don’t recognize.
  • Respect Boundaries: Avoid rough play or aggressive interaction with dogs, even those you know. “Let sleeping dogs lie” is a wise principle, and avoid disturbing dogs eating or caring for their young.

Following these precautions and the advice of your physician can minimize the risk of dog bites and their potential complications, like weakened immune systems. Furthermore, if the puncture wound attack site shows swelling or redness, go to the doctor for a professional opinion. Because dog bites are vectors for diseases such as MRSA, tetanus, or rabies, it is vital to treat these injuries sooner rather than later.

If the dog’s owner is around, ask them for the dog’s vaccination history as well. That way, you can make sure to obtain the owner’s name, telephone number, as well as their veterinarian’s contact information. Stop the spread. You’ll be glad you did.

Schedule a Free Consultation With Top Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorneys

Any breed of dog with teeth can bite someone without warning. The damages can be substantial when the wound appears, and you must control bleeding until you can see a doctor. Always have a clean bandage and mild soap around if you need to spring into action after a dog bite. Contact our office to schedule a free case evaluation with an experienced Los Angeles dog bite injury lawyer for all deadly and minor bites. After receiving proper dog bite treatment, let’s work together to get you the money you deserve from the party responsible for your losses while working or playing. We are ready to help you obtain fair compensation for your medical treatment and other suffering at (213) 596-9642.

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Michael Ehline

Michael Ehline is an inactive U.S. Marine and world-famous legal historian. Michael helped draft the Cruise Ship Safety Act and has won some of U.S. history’s largest motorcycle accident settlements. Together with his legal team, Michael and the Ehline Law Firm collect damages on behalf of clients. We pride ourselves on being available to answer your most pressing and difficult questions 24/7. We are proud sponsors of the Paul Ehline Memorial Motorcycle Ride and a Service Disabled Veteran Operated Business. (SDVOB.) We are ready to fight.