When man’s best friend bites

Household pets bring joy and comfort to many Americans.  Pets have been proven to decrease stress, increase exercise levels and are playmates for children (and adults).  Over 36% of households in the U.S. own at least one dog.

But at the same time, injuries from dogs cost more than $1.36 billion between 2010 and 2014 according to data released in a December 2018 study.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that children are more likely than adults to be bitten by a dog and when bitten, their injuries can be more severe.  Most dog bites occur at home, with a dog that is known to the victim.  However, a significant number of dog attacks occur where the victim does not know the dog.

Black dog with red collar showing their teeth

In addition to pain and scarring, dog bites can also pass disease, from rabies to tetanus, and it is important to take immediate steps to protect the victim.  The CDC recommends the following:

For minor wounds:

  • Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water.
  • Apply an antibiotic cream.
  • Cover the wound with a clean bandage.
  • See a healthcare provider if the wound becomes red, painful, warm, or swollen; if you develop a fever; or if the dog that bit you was acting strangely.

For deep wounds:

  • Apply pressure with a clean, dry cloth to stop the bleeding.
  • If you cannot stop the bleeding or you feel faint or weak, call 911 or your local emergency medical services immediately.
  • See a healthcare provider as soon as possible.

See a healthcare provider if:

  • The wound is serious (uncontrolled bleeding, loss of function, extreme pain, muscle or bone exposure, etc.).
  • The wound becomes red, painful, warm, or swollen. You should also seek treatment  if you develop a fever or if you are unsure if the dog has been vaccinated against rabies.
  • It has been more than five years since your last tetanus shot and the bite is deep.

Avoiding bites

The CDC also presents this guidance to prevent dog bites:


    • Always ask if it is okay to pet someone else’s dog before reaching out to pet the dog.
    • When approached by an unfamiliar dog, remain motionless (“be still like a tree”).
    • If a dog knocks you over, curl into a ball with your head tucked and your hands over your ears and neck.
    • Immediately let an adult know about any stray dogs or dogs that are behaving strangely.


    • Approach an unfamiliar dog.
    • Run from a dog.
    • Panic or make loud noises.
    • Disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
    • Pet a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first.
    • Encourage your dog to play aggressively.
    • Let small children play with a dog unsupervised.

What to do if an unfamiliar dog approaches you and you do not want to interact with it

    • Stop! Stay still and be calm.
    • Do not panic or make loud noises.
    • Avoid direct eye contact with the dog.
    • Say “No” or “Go Home” in a firm, deep voice.
    • Stand with the side of your body facing the dog. Facing a dog directly can appear aggressive to the dog. Instead, keep your body turned partially or completely to the side.
    • Slowly raise your hands to your neck, with your elbows in.
    • Wait for the dog to pass or slowly back away.

What to do if you are bitten or attacked by a dog

Protect Yourself

    • Put your purse, bag, or jacket between you and the dog.
    • If you are knocked down, curl into a ball with your head tucked in and your hands over your ears and neck.

Report the Bite

Finally, because some dogs can harm others, it is important to report any bite.  Again, the CDC states:

Because anyone who is bitten by a dog is at risk of getting rabies, consider contacting your local animal control agency or police department to report the incident.

If possible, contact the owner and ensure the animal has a current rabies vaccination. You will need the rabies vaccine license number, name of the veterinarian who administered the vaccine, and the owner’s name, address, and phone number.

Seek legal advice. 

An unprovoked dog attack cannot only scare its victim, but the injuries and scarring can be permanent.  If you or a loved one have been attacked by a dog, you may be entitled to be repaid for your medical costs and injuries.  Seek legal assistance today.