There are as many as seventy million dogs in the United States. Most instances of dog bites go unreported and this has resulted in low figures of around four and a half million cases of dog bites per year in the United States.
Dogs have rounded teeth, but dog bites can result in serious damage to the tissues beneath the skin which includes the bones, the blood vessels, the muscle tendons as well as the nerves. This is because when the dogs bite, their jaws exert tremendous pressure on the area where the dog bite occurs.
A lot of dog bite victims have to undergo reconstructive surgery every year and there are some fatalities as well.
Risk factors of a dog bite
- Individuals who have pet dogs at homes are at increased risk to get bitten by the dog. If there are many dogs, the risk increases. Men are generally more at risk than women to be bitten by dogs.
- Children who are in the age group of between five and nine are more at risk to dog bites than individuals of other age groups.
- Some research studies have indicated that certain breeds such as the Chow Chow predominant breeds or German Shepherds are more likely to bite than other breeds of dogs. The studies also add that such dogs tend to be male, may not be neutered, live in a house with more number of children and are most probably attached to a chain while out in the yard.
- Some other breeds of dogs that may also tend to bite more often than others include breeds such as Collie, Siberian Husky, the Bull Terrier, Great Dane, Cocker Spaniel, Rottweiler, Doberman Pinscher and the Pit bull.
- However, the American Veterinary Medical Association has different views and maintains that all breeds of dogs bite when provoked. Hence, the primary concern of all dog owners should be to keep their children safe from dogs.
Steps to be taken after a dog bite
There are a few basic steps that need to be followed following a dog bite incident. They are as follows:
- The victim of dog bite should be taken away to a safe place away from the dog that has bit. This is essential so that the assailant dog does not attack again and cause further injury.
- The extent of skin damage should be immediately determined. If there is extensive damage from the dog bite such as a tear, a laceration or a puncture, then one should immediately seek medical care. Minimal damage such as abrasions should be checked for signs of possible infection which includes warmth, pain, swelling, oozing of fluids or pus as well as increased redness before seeking appropriate medical attention.
- The dog bite wound should be kept raised and one can try to wash the wound with clean water.
- It is important to validate the rabies status of the dog either from the dog owner or from concerned authorities.
Treatment for dog bites
- Dog bites can result in all kinds of damage to the affected area such as skin surface damage, secondary infections of the wound as well as extensive damage that may include tendon tear, bone damage as well as damage to the nerves and the blood vessels.
- A muscle tendon tear can lead to the impairment of motor movements.
- Dog bites usually result in secondary infections of the wound with bacteria such as Streptococcus, Pasteurella and Staphylococcus
- Rabies immunization of the dog is the most important factor to be considered before undergoing any medical care.
After all the above factors have been taken into consideration, a doctor proceeds with the treatment of dog bite.
- The dog bite wound is anesthetized and then washed with saline solutions to remove the bacteria and the dirt. The damage to the skin is also observed. Depending on the area of the dog bite, the wound may then be closed. Facial dog bite wounds are usually closed, while dog bite wounds in other less visible areas may be left open to heal by themselves as well as to prevent infection.
- Extensive damage to the skin and associated injuries may require treatment in the operating room. The repair of such damage and injuries can be very painful and hence children and infants may need to be anesthetized for prolonged periods.
- In some cases, doctors may prescribe antibiotics to prevent possible bacterial infections.
Prevention of dog bites and other safety tips
As per the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, some of the safety tips and preventive measures for dog bites include:
- The pet dog should be chosen after careful evaluation of one’s environment and lifestyle.
- All dogs must be neutered to diminish aggressive tendencies.
- Don’t force a fearful child to be friendly to the pet dog
- Children must be taught basic safety tips when around dogs which should be regularly reviewed.
- Stray or unfamiliar dogs should not be approached and when they approach you, remain motionless and never run or scream
- A dog that is sleeping, caring for puppies or eating should not be disturbed
- When one is knocked down by a dog, lie still and remain in a ball