About 4.5 million dog bites occur every year in the United States alone. These bites range from minor to severe, and some even require reconstructive surgery because the dog was able to tear into tendons, muscle, nerves, and even bone.
Dog bites are obviously more common in homes that have at least one dog or more, but it’s not uncommon for a dog that isn’t your own to bite you just as easily. There are plenty of old tropes about dogs and postal carriers, but some of the stereotypes are true. Almost 7,000 U.S. mail carriers were attacked by dogs in 2016. It’s safe to assume that any dog can attack, even if you’re simply walking around the neighborhood (just ask your local postman!).
So, what should you do if you are attacked and bitten by a dog? Are there things you can do to prevent dog bites?
Seeking Safety and Treatment
Dogs will attack and bite for a variety of reasons. If they’re stressed or feel threatened, they may attack to defend themselves or their territory. They also might bite if they feel they have something to protect, like food, puppies, or even a favorite toy.
Almost any breed of dog will bite if it feels threatened or if it feels attacking is the only response to a situation. While some breeds like Pit Bulls get a bad reputation for attacks, chihuahuas are actually the most common breed associated with biting. That goes to show that it doesn’t matter the breed, age, size, or temperament of a dog — you should always be aware that there is the potential for an attack.
If you are bitten by a dog for any reason, there are some active steps you should take immediately:
- Get to a safe place away from the dog as quickly as possible.
- Check yourself for any skin damage or punctures. If there are none, you may not need medical attention. But, you should be aware of the possibility of infection over the next several days.
- If there is an open wound, clean it out with water quickly.
- Get as much information as you possibly can about the dog (including their immunization records) from the owner. If that isn’t possible, work with local animal control officials to make sure the dog is vaccinated.
- If there is consistent pain at the site of the bite, seek out medical help. Even if a bite doesn’t puncture the skin, it can cause damage to the nerves or tissue underneath.
In some cases, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the owner of the dog. This can help you pay for any medical expenses you incurred. Every state is different when it comes to their dog bite laws, but if you believe the owner was negligent and allowed the dog to bite you when you weren’t trespassing or aggravating it, you could have a solid case.
Protecting Your Pet From an Attack
Summer is prime time for potential risks when it comes to the safety and wellbeing of your pet. If you have an indoor/outdoor cat, make sure they can get inside easily to cool off. If you take your dog with you to the store, never leave them in a hot car by themselves. After all, the temperature in a car can increase by 20 degrees in just 10 minutes.
Additionally, you have to be conscious of other dogs that are outside in the summer. If you’re out on a walk with your four-legged friend, they could get attacked by another dog just as easily as you can.
If you are in public with your dog, make sure you keep them close by at all times. Even if your dog is well-behaved, they should always be leashed, as you never know how your dog or someone else’s dog will respond to certain sights, smells, or sounds. Again, keep in mind that any type of dog can bite. You’ll keep your dog safer by making sure they can’t wander off.
If another dog is off a leash or breaks free from behind a fence and starts to attack your dog, don’t get in the middle of it. It can be hard to step away when you see your dog in trouble, but if you try to get involved you could end up getting bitten, too. Instead, stay calm. Make a lot of noise to distract the dogs. If you have a water bottle with you (or a hose nearby), spray them down to separate them. You can also use any type of nearby barrier to split them up, just make sure you don’t directly get in the middle of them.
Once you’ve got the fight broken up, look your dog over to make sure they don’t need any medical attention. If they do, take them to the vet immediately. They are susceptible to just as many risks as humans when it comes to a dog bite. It’s cases like these that an investment in dog insurance beforehand will help keep such unexpected more manageable. Most pet insurance providers will cover accidents and bites, so you’ll pay less out of pocket for the immediate care of your pet.
Are Dog Bites Preventable?
Because dogs are unpredictable, there is no way to guarantee an attack won’t happen. But, you can take some preventative measures to lower your risk of getting attacked:
- Don’t go near a dog you’re not familiar with.
- Stay completely still if you’re approached by an unfamiliar dog.
- Don’t run away.
- Don’t reach out to pet a dog until they sniff you.
Even though dogs have rounded teeth, their bite can cause a lot of damage. Keep these tips in mind to take proper care of yourself if you get attacked, and be cautious when you’re out and about this summer. By being more aware of your surroundings, you can be better prepared to protect both yourself and your pup from dog bites.
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