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When Dog Bites Require Medical Attention

Apr 24, 2020

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Dog bites can literally happen to you anywhere: at home, in the park, or on vacation. No matter where you are or what you're doing, knowing what to do after a dog bite can help reduce your chances of much bigger problems later on.

Dog bites can literally happen to you anywhere: at home, in the park, or on vacation. No matter where you are or what you're doing, knowing what to do after a dog bite can help reduce your chances of much bigger problems later on.

The skilled doctors at DOCCS Urgent Care in Melbourne, Florida, are well-equipped to treat your dog bite. With the proper care, you will be back out enjoying life in no time.

What to do immediately after the bite

Like many animals, wild or domesticated, dogs can carry harmful bacteria in their mouths. They can also carry diseases such as rabies if they aren't kept up-to-date on their shots. All of this can have you concerned; however, there are some things you can do.

First, if you are able to, put space between you and the dog. This can decrease the risk that you'll be bitten again, causing more injury. If you know who owns the dog, you can ask them if the dog is current on vaccinations. You may also want to ask for their vet's phone number and vaccination record to take with you if you seek medical attention.

In the chance that it's a stray dog or a dog that you don't recognize, ask anyone who may have witnessed the event if they know who owns the dog. If no one recognizes it, you should seek medical attention because you don't know if the dog has had its vaccinations.

First aid tips

After establishing space between you and the dog and figuring out if it has been vaccinated, there are some things you can do at home to treat the wound right away. First aid you can administer to yourself at home includes:

  • Washing the bite with soap and warm water

  • Slowing any bleeding with a clean cloth or towel

  • Applying over-the-counter antibiotic ointment to the wound

  • Covering the bite with a sterile dressing

  • Changing the bandage a few times a day

  • Watching for signs of infections

  • Seeing a doctor if you have any concerns.

The biggest concern for your health after a dog bite is infection. Dogs can carry harmful bacteria in their mouths such as staphylococcus and streptococcus. These can cause severe infections that, if bad enough, may require hospitalization. Seek medical attention right away if you are diabetic or immunocompromised, as your risk for infection is much higher.

When to seek medical attention

You may want to see our doctors with any dog bite that breaks the skin. Any time your skin is broken, there is a risk for infection. Other reasons to see our doctors include:

  • Getting bit by a dog with unknown vaccination history

  • The dog appears rabid or sick

  • The wound doesn't stop bleeding

  • You experience an extreme amount of pain

  • The bite is deep enough to expose bone or muscle

  • The bite becomes red, swollen, and inflamed

  • The bite starts leaking pus.

If you don't know when your last tetanus shot was, you should also seek medical care. Tetanus shots are good for up to 10 years; however, if the bite is dirty and looks infected and your last tetanus shot was more than five years ago, the doctor may give you a booster.

If our doctors are concerned about infection, they may start you on a course of oral antibiotics to make sure that the bite does not become infected later.

Dog bites are usually not stitched because of the risk of trapping harmful bacteria in the wound. However, if the dog bite is severe and your doctor feels that leaving it open risks severe scarring, stitches may be applied to the wound. This will be determined by your specific doctor who sees you at our office.

If you have been bitten by a dog and want to seek medical treatment, contact our office at 321-752-7100, or book an appointment online today.

DOCCS Urgent and Primary Health Care
✆ Phone (appointments): tel:321-752-7100

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