Dog Bites Guide
Dogs are everywhere, so avoiding dog bites is essential. Even though some dogs are friendlier than others, any dog, regardless of breed or size, is capable of biting. Even the sweetest dog can snap or bite if it is injured or scared.
Children, as well as adults, should learn how to stay safe around dogs, but it’s critical to remember that the dog’s owner is ultimately responsible for the dog’s behavior. Fortunately, if you take the necessary precautions, you can prevent your dog from biting someone. Responsible dog ownership and public education are the keys to keeping everyone safe.
Dog Bite Statistics
According to a Center For Disease Control (CDC)1 study, approximately 4.5 million dog bites occur in the United States each year, with 800,000 of those bites requiring medical attention. In 2019, the population of the United States was approximately 328.2 million people. That means that one out of every 73 people is bitten by a dog. These are frightening statistics. When you have the right information, however, scary becomes a lot less scary.
Dog Breeds Most Know to Bite
- English Bulldog
- Bull Terrier
- Lhasa Apso
- Australian Shepherd
- Cocker Spaniel
- German Shepherd
- Jack Russell Terrier
- Pit Bull
What Causes Dogs to Bite?
Some dogs bite when they feel intimidated, but others may bite when they’re roughhousing with you through a normal day’s play, or in situations for which they haven’t been trained or prepared.
Dog bites, with very few exceptions, do not happen without some forewarning, despite appearances. There are numerous reasons why a dog may feel that biting is their best response, ranging from minor nicks that do not break the skin to serious bites that necessitate medical attention. Unfortunately, people frequently ignore the warning signs that a bite is imminent. Prior to biting, most dogs will try to communicate their discomfort by barking, growling, or snapping at the air. But what exactly causes dog bites? Dogs may use their teeth to interact for a variety of reasons, including:
Pay attention to a dog’s body language and the reality that most dogs exhibit specific warning signs prior to biting. Growling, snapping, raised fur, a rigid body position, and rapid tail wagging are all examples. Keep these in mind as dog owners and when engaging with any dog.
The front teeth of a dog will grab and squish your tissue, and their smaller teeth will tear your skin. As a result, the wound is open and jagged. When a wound becomes infected, the consequences are frequently severe.
There are seven steps to treating a dog bite.
- If a dog bites you, take the following actions right away:
- Cleanse the wound. Use a gentle soap and run warm water over it for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Using a clean cloth, slow the bleeding.
- If you have antibiotic cream on hand, apply it.
- Wrap a sterile bandage around the wound.
- Continue to bandage the wound and consult your doctor.
- After your doctor has inspected the wound, change the bandage several times per day.
- Keep an eye out for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, increased pain, and fever.
Your doctor will be interested in learning more about the dog that bit you and how it happened. If an infection is suspected, he or she will most likely clean the wound again, apply antibiotic ointment, and prescribe antibiotics such as Augmentin.
Following any bite, make sure you know when your last tetanus shot was — and that you’re up to date. Tetanus immunization is effective for ten years. If the wound is dirty and it has been more than five years since your last shot, your doctor may advise you to get a booster.
Depending on the severity of the wound, your doctor may also advise stitches. However, dog wounds are generally left open to heal unless they are on the face or could leave particularly severe scars if left unsutured.
How to Avoid a Dog Bite
Although each situation and dog is unique, there are a few things you can do to avoid a dog bite. Dogs that bite are either threatened or afraid for some reason, and their instinctive reaction is to attack. It’s critical that you understand how to act and react around a dog you don’t know in order to avoid a potentially dangerous situation.
Dogs and Children
Petting and having fun with dogs can be enjoyable and exciting for kids! Even if a dog appears friendly and harmless, parents must be aware of the risk of dog bites and other injuries! Bite wounds cause about 1% of emergency department visits, with dog bites accounting for the vast majority of these injuries. The majority of dog bites are caused by animals known to the child, and the dog in 15 to 30% of all cases belongs to the patient’s family. Although many dog bites are minor, more serious injuries and complications can occur.
- Dogs can be wonderful companions, but they are still creatures and can bite! Keep your children safe by following these simple guidelines:
- Never leave a dog alone with an infant or a child.
- Allowing children to pet or play with a dog while he or she is eating or sleeping is never a good idea.
Teach your children to be cautious around pets.
- Teach children not to approach strange dogs or reach through fences to pet them.
- Educate children to always seek permission from the owner of a dog before petting it.
When a Dog Attacks
Depending on the severity of the bite, here’s what you should do if you or someone you’re with is bitten. If you are with someone and the bite is severe, have them seek medical attention or call 911 as soon as possible.
- Substitute something else for the dog to bite on: a stick, a notebook, a sleeve, or anything else you have lying around. Ensure that it enters the dog’s mouth.
- If you don’t have an object, you may have to sacrifice, or “take the bite”: if you write with your right hand, give it your left arm.
- DO NOT pull back after a dog has bitten; the damage has already been done and will not be worsened by going in the direction it is pulling, and resistance can excite the dog even more.
- If you get loose, square off and confront the dog in an intimidating stance, commanding “NO” in a firm voice. Slowly back off while facing the dog.
- If you have the physical strength, you could try pushing it on its side and kneeling on its chest, pushing out the air and making breathing more difficult. Pushing it on its back may allow the dog to use its feet to push you away or to put a paw in your eyes.
- If all else fails, collapse into a fetal position and protect your head and trunk with your arms and legs. Do not struggle or fight back, and do not jump up until the dog is at least 20 feet away. Take a step back from the dog.
- Wash and rinse all bite injuries immediately and seek medical attention as soon as possible.
- Report the bite to 311. All bites must be reported under state law.
Dog Bite Liability
All states hold dog owners, and pet owners in general, liable for injuries and property damage caused by their pets. However, some states, including Texas, follow the “one free bite rule,” which states that an owner of the dog is not legally liable for a dog bite until he or she has reason to believe the dog will bite. This is a two-edged sword because if the owner is aware that their dog is dangerous, they can be held strictly liable. Don’t let the one-free-bite rule prevent you from contacting our office to see if we can assist you.
If you or a loved one was bitten by a dog, you should consult a dog bite attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your legal options. Our attorneys have experience in a variety of practice areas, including medical negligence, car accidents, and others, in addition to dog bite lawsuits. Fill out our no-obligation case review form today for more information about how our attorneys can assist you.