I Got Bitten By a Dog: What Should I Do?

Feb 01, 2024

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I Got Bitten By a Dog: What Should I Do?

Experiencing a dog bite can be startling and distressing; unfortunately, dog bites are common. About 47% of dog bites occur on the upper extremity 一 your hand, wrist, or arm 一 but other common areas include the foot, head, and neck.

Our board-certified surgeons here at Sequoia Institute for Surgical Services perform surgery on traumatic injuries, but even before you arrive for surgery, there are steps you can take after a dog bite.

Here’s what to do if you were bitten by a dog.

Immediate first aid for dog bites

The first step is to gently clean the wound with mild soap and water. This helps reduce the risk of infection. Avoid using hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, as they can be harsh on your damaged tissues.

If your wound is bleeding, apply gentle pressure with a clean cloth or sterile bandage to control it. Elevating your hand or wrist can also help minimize swelling. If you can’t stop the bleeding, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest urgent care or emergency facility.

Seek medical attention

Dog bites, especially those affecting the hand or wrist, often require immediate medical attention. Visit the emergency room to assess the extent of the injury, check for fractures, and receive appropriate wound care. In addition to wound care, you may also need additional care if the dog could have rabies.

Your Sequoia Institute for Surgical Services provider will likely order X-rays to evaluate for fractures or damage to underlying structures. Prompt and accurate diagnosis is crucial for determining the appropriate treatment plan.

Be prepared to answer questions about the dog. You may be asked if you know the dog, if the dog exhibited any signs of rabies, etc. If rabies is a concern or if you don’t know the dog that bit you, report the dog bite to your local police or the Tulare County Health & Human Services Agency.

How are dog bites treated?

Dog bite treatment often involves:

  • Basic first aid at home (before heading to the emergency room)
  • Wound debridement (in the event of other debris in your wound)
  • Antibiotics to prevent infections
  • Tetanus shot

Dog bites (and other puncture words) aren’t necessarily closed with sutures. This is a controversial topic, and there may be a time and place for stitches. Regardless of whether you receive stitches, follow all post-treatment instructions carefully to reduce your risk of infection.

Surgical repair for traumatic dog bites

Depending on how deep the bite is and if any tendon, muscles, ligaments, or bones were damaged, you may benefit from surgical repair. Our experienced hand surgeons, Dr. Jonathan Liu and Dr. Huey Yuan Tien, can repair damaged tissues on your hands, wrists, elbows and arms. 

Preventing future dog bites

After your dog bite is treated, you can implement steps to prevent future bites. Certain occupations, such as vet, vet tech, and dog groomers, are most at risk. Follow your safety guidelines at work to reduce the risk of bites.

To reduce your risk of bites at home, socialize your puppy, train your dog, teach your children how to safely play with a dog, and ensure your dog has plenty of space to relax and rest when needed. Always remove your dog from situations that make them nervous or scared.

Never use your hands to split up dogs if a dog fight breaks out. Instead, use a leash or a long object, like a broom or stick, to help separate the dogs.

Questions? Call our Porterville, Reedley, or Visalia, California office. You can also  book your appointment online any time, day or night.