Dogs may be a man’s best friend, and they can be lovable; however, we must not forget that they are still animals with sharp teeth and mood swings. According to a survey, there are about 4.5 million cases of dog bites every year in the United States alone.
In this article we’ll address treatments for typical dog bites, ways to prevent a dog bite from happening and what happens if your dog bites someone. Please note that this is a legal website and the information below is not intended as a substitution for professional medical advice. If you are bitten by a dog we strongly recommend getting professional medical attention.
How to Treat a Dog Bite Wound
According to David Tashman, Medical Director at Keck Medicine of USC, here is what you do if you are bitten by a dog:
- Apply pressure to stop the bleeding
- Wash the wound with soap and water
- Go to the doctor as soon as possible.
According to Tashman, “dog bites have high risk of infection and most get treated to prevent that from happening. Sooner is better for the antibiotics. Dog bites usually do NOT get stitched, unless they are large or cosmetically significant. However, if the wound needs stitches they should be placed within 6 hours of the bite. So also, don’t delay.”
He continued, “Everyone thinks of rabies, but it’s actually quite rare in domestic dogs in the USA. Most victims of dog bite won’t need the rabies vaccine. Especially if the dog can be observed.”
- But, get a tetanus shot if you need one.
Treatments Vary Depending on the Wound
Treatments for dog bites vary depending on the injury. Additional information is provided below but is not a substitute for professional medical opinion.
If you suffered a minor injury, in other words, the wound did not pierce the skin, also known as a scratch or a scrape, you may be able to simply treat the wound at home – though it is always recommended that you see a doctor if you have not had or are unsure if you have had a rabies vaccination.
Be sure that your hands are clean before touching an open wound. So, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
It is also better to wash the wound in running, warm water for about three (3) to five (5) minutes. Wear latex gloves while treating the wound if possible. If the wound is still oozing apply direct and firm pressure on the wound using a clean and dry cloth.
Once dried out, apply an antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin on the wound. Spread it in and around the bitten area. Afterward, use a sterile bandage to cover it to prevent further infection.
If the dog bite wound is more severe (not superficial) such as it punctured the skin or it is bleeding it is important to obtain medical attention. Go to the emergency room or go see your primary care physician.
Additional Injuries Caused by Dog Bites
In addition to flesh wounds, dog bites may cause more significant injuries. We have seen cases where dog bites tear muscles, tendons, and nerves.
Sometimes dogs attack, they don’t bite. A dog “attack,” which is also covered by the Illinois statute on dog bites may result in fractured or broken bones or other severe injuries.
Here is the text of the Illinois law for your reference:
“Sec. 16. Animal attacks or injuries. If a dog or other animal, without provocation, attacks, attempts to attack, or injures any person who is peaceably conducting himself or herself in any place where he or she may lawfully be, the owner of such dog or other animal is liable in civil damages to such person for the full amount of the injury proximately caused thereby.” Illinois Animal Attacks 510 ILCS 5/16
Can I Recover for Scarring from a Dog Bite?
The primary injury we see after dog bites are flesh wounds. Often the wound results in scarring. Scarring is a permanent disfigurement and is very compensable – meaning you can definitely recover for it. This is particularly true if the scar is in a place that is very visible.
These cases vary in value dramatically. We’ve been involved in cases where clients recovered $5,000 and cases that were worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
How to Prove Damages from a Dog Bite
The single best way to prove your damages caused in a dog bite is to take photographs – lots of them. A picture tells 1,000 words and this is very true when trying to negotiate with an insurance adjuster.
If you can show the severity of the injury from photos taken at the time of the dog attack – photos of a bloody arm, the wounds, the scratches, the bandages and so forth. And you can show (sometimes professionally taken) photographs of the scarring that resulted as a result of the attack, you can greatly enhance the value of your case.
If you’re looking for more info on dog bites, please download our FREE Top 7 Illinois Dog Bite Law Tips PDF document today.