World Rabies Day: Treat a dog bite with these first aid tips

It’s important to know how to handle a dog bite because if left untreated, it can cause a significant injury or infection.
first aid for dog bites
A dog bite can be treated. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Aayushi Gupta Updated: 30 Oct 2023, 13:56 pm IST
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A dog bite can be painful and dangerous. It is said that roughly 20,000 deaths in India occur due to rabies through dog bites. What is alarming is that about 36% of the world’s rabies deaths occur in our country each year, according to the WHO (World Health Organization), which clearly shows how important it is for us to be aware. 

Dog bites aren’t just as rare as you think. In fact, sometimes you can get surprised by a bite from your own dog. But whether it’s your pet or a stray dog, what should you do if you’re bitten by a dog? Well, we’ve got the answer you’re looking for.  

Treating a dog bite

If you’ve been bitten by a dog, it’s important to treat the wound right away to reduce your risk of bacterial infection such as rabies, a life-threatening infection. In some instances, you’ll be able to administer first aid to yourself. In other cases, you’ll need immediate medical treatment. But remember, it’s very important to see a doctor if an unfamiliar dog, for example, a stray dog, bit you, the bite is deep, you can’t stop the bleeding or there are any signs of infection (redness, swelling, warmth, pus). Dog bites can cause infections that need to be treated by the doctor. 

Here’s a general but important protocol to follow in case of a dog bite

Step 1: Remain calm and the first thing you should do following a dog bite is to put distance between yourself and the dog. This will reduce the chances of dog bite again. 

Step 2: Then, wash the wound with warm water and soap carefully. 

Step 3: Try to stop the bleeding with clean cloth by gently pressing down to stop the flow 

Step 4: When the bleeding stops, apply an antibacterial lotion or ointment to the area as a precaution. 

first aid for dog bites
Do not get panic, stay calm. Image courtesy: Shutterstock.

Step 5: Keep the wound bandaged. 

Step 6: Watch the signs of infection, including redness, swelling, increased pain, fever, and pus. 

Also, read: You’ll want to keep this first-aid guide for sprains handy for emergencies

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Apart from this Dr. Nishant Singh, general physician, Meddo Nidaan Clinic, tells Healthshots that the first thing to check affer a dog bites is the severity of the wound and if the dog was vaccinated. If the skin is not broken – wash the area with warm water and soap and you can apply a antiseptic solution to the area. If the skin is broken by not bleeding – clean the area using warm water, soap and a clean towel. Press the surrounding area to bleeding. This will help in removing the germs. Clean the blood and apply an antibacterial ointment. If the wound is bleeding – apply and press a clean cloth to the area to stop bleeding. Clean the area and apply a sterile bandage. It is important to seek immediate medical attention in case of a bleeding dog bite wound.

Get medical care for a dog bite if:

1. The bite was from a wild or stray dog, an animal that is acting strangely.

2. The bite has badly torn or broken your skin.

3. Bleeding doesn’t stop after 15 minutes of pressure. 

4. If the bite becomes red, hot, swollen, or painful. See the doctor immediately if you notice these symptoms. 

5. Animals often carry rabies which can cause infection, so try to confirm that the animal’s rabies vaccination is up to date or not. And if not then see the doctor. 

6. If you are a diabetic, cancer patient, or have AIDS. 

Also, read: It’s time to cheer up because dogs are being trained to sniff out covid-19

Also seek medical attention if you:
  1. Have not had a tetanus shot in the last five years. 
  2. Feel weak, disoriented, or faint
  3. Have a fever
first aid for dog bites
Always clean the wound properly. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
What will a doctor do?

1. Your doctor will examine the injury to see whether the bite was deep enough to damage muscle, tendons, nerves, and bones. 

2. Then the doctor will thoroughly clean your bite wound. 

3. Your doctor will take measures to prevent the infection and if the dog’s health status is unknown or the dog tests positive for rabies, you will need to get a rabies vaccine, a series of shots over a two-week period. 

Also, read: This first-aid guide for minor burns will help you deal with cooking accidents

4. The doctor will also make sure that you’re up to date on your tetanus shot or not.

5. You need to take antibiotics for the period of time (basically for two weeks) recommended by the doctor to prevent or treat the infection.

6. The doctor may ask you to come back in one to three days to have the injury rechecked. 

first aid for dog bites
Follow the doctor advice. Image courtesy: Shuttesrstock

The treatment provided by the doctor depends on the severity of the bite and the victim’s overall health to treat the dog bite. 

Possible complications

The most common complication of a dog bite that people experience is an infection. A dog’s mouth is dirty and has bacteria living in it which includes:

  • Staphylococcus
  • Pasteurella
  • Capnocytophaga

These bacteria and germs can cause bacterial infection if the dog bit breaks your skin. The risk of infection may be greater in people with weakened immune systems or people with diabetes or other health conditions. That’s why if you notice any sign of infection you should go for a doctor checkup because you need medical attention to ensure your wounds heal properly. 

Dog bites are scary and injurious, but worrying won’t help. The right reaction will.

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About the Author

Aayushi Gupta is a health writer with a special interest in trends related to diet, fitness, beauty and intimate health. With around 2 years of experience in the wellness industry, she is connected to leading experts and doctors to provide our readers with factually correct information. ...Read More

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