As more businesses and public places become pet-friendly, dog bites are becoming more common as an unfortunate side effect. Maybe you unintentionally provoked the dog. Perhaps the dog was experiencing discomfort, or is reactive. No matter how it happens, it never hurts to be prepared for when you or somebody else becomes a dog bite victim.
Treat the dog bite to reduce the risk of infection.
Get away from the dog as much as possible to prevent more bites.
Slow any bleeding by putting pressure on the dog bite wound with a sterile gauze or clean cloth. Keep the bite area elevated.
Wash the wound with mild soap and warm water for 5-10 minutes.
Put antibiotic ointment on the wound once the bleeding has stopped to prevent bacterial infection.
Wrap the wound with a bandage or sterile gauze.
Have someone tend to the dog if it needs attention too.
If the dog that bit you turned out to be injured or in rough condition, ensure the dog is taken care of so it doesn’t hurt itself or anyone else further. For everyone's safety, call animal control authorities to handle the dog if he or she is a stray. Otherwise, if it’s a pet, have someone apply first-aid to its wounds and get medical attention for the dog as soon as possible.
Gather information about the dog bite incident.
Get as much information as possible about the incident. That way, you can be compensated for any medical procedure due to the dog bite. Be sure to get:
The dog owner’s name and contact information of the dog owner
All witnesses’ name and contact information
Pictures of the dog, the injuries, and the surroundings – especially the areas that support your version of the incident
The dog owner’s pet insurance information to file a claim
That way, if you aren’t getting a fair settlement offer from the dog owner’s pet insurance company, you can also speak to a personal injury attorney.
Get immediate medical attention for the dog bite.
Depending on the situation, here are three ways to get medical attention:
Option 1: Call 911 if you are alone or if you have serious bites. For instance, you have a laceration, a lot of bleeding, or you’re in deep pain.
Option 2: Find the nearest clinic to you if you don’t already have a primary care provider and have someone take you there.
Option 3: Have someone take you to your primary care provider.
Get medical attention no later than 8 hours after the dog bit you. Once you’re at the doctor’s office, be prepared to give the following information:
A description of the dog and the place where the dog bit you. Was it a stray dog or a pet? What kind of dog was it? Was it acting strangely? Did the dog have signs of rabies? What was its appearance? When did it last get its rabies shots if it’s your dog?
Your medical history and immunization record. More specifically, your doctor will likely ask for your last tetanus vaccination, medication allergies, and other medical conditions that the animal bite can worsen.
Here’s what to expect from the doctor’s visit.
Like at the start of any medical visit, your doctor will assess your condition by asking you several questions. In this case, the doctor will want to learn more about the dog that bit you and how it happened.
Next, the doctor will clean the bite wound – even if you’ve already done it – and analyze the injury to check for any sign of infection.
Then the doctor will ask when you last received your tetanus shot. If it’s been over five years, he’ll likely recommend you get one as soon as possible. If you already had a tetanus shot, your doctor will probably advise you to get a booster if your animal bite has a serious infection.
It never hurts to be prepared.
Don’t let the possibility of a bite stop you from being around dogs. Because chances are – most dogs you’ll encounter are friendly and are adequately trained by their owners. When in doubt, always ask a dog's owner before reaching out to pet them, and avoid handling unfamiliar or stray dogs. Keep these tips in mind so that on the rare occasion you or somebody else becomes a bite victim, you’ll be in a position to help or even save a life.
You can also learn how to prevent dog bites in the future – especially if you know a dog well enough to recognize what triggers them.
Christian is a Tampa personal injury and insurance attorney. He is the founding partner of Denmon & Pearlman. A truly progressive firm, the firm offers fixed fee engagements, service guarantees, and a focus on picking the right process to lead to a principled settlement for the client. He lives in St. Petersburg with his Wife and two children.