Dog bites can range from minor nips to severe attacks. Knowing how to navigate these situations is essential for safety. Dogs communicate through body language. Certain signs, including raised hackles, bared teeth, a stiff posture, growling, intense staring or ears that are pinned back, can indicate that a dog is feeling threatened or aggressive and might bite.
If a dog shows signs of aggression, the best course of action is to remain calm. Avoid making direct eye contact, which can be interpreted as a challenge. Don’t run away because this can trigger the dog’s chase instinct. Instead, stay still, keep your hands at your sides and avoid facing the dog directly. Sometimes, if a dog senses you are not a threat, it will lose interest and move away.
What to do if you’re bitten
If a dog bites you, it’s essential to take immediate action. Some steps you should take include the following:
- Clean the wound gently with soap and warm water.
- Apply pressure to stop any bleeding.
- After cleaning, apply an antibiotic cream to prevent infection and cover the wound with a clean bandage.
- Seek medical attention for the bite. This is particularly important if the dog is not your own, as you may not know its vaccination history.
- Contact the dog’s owner, if possible, to inquire about the dog’s vaccination status, specifically for rabies. If the dog isn’t vaccinated, or if it’s a stray, you may need a rabies shot.
- Report the bite to your local animal control agency or health department.
Even with minor bites, infections are a risk. Dogs’ mouths contain bacteria that can lead to infection if a bite breaks the skin. Signs of infection include redness, swelling, increased pain and fever.
The medical care needed for a dog bite can be considerable and costly. Victims of dog bites may seek compensation from the dog’s owner under circumstances that vary by state. It’s important to seek legal guidance right away after a bite to better determine what your state requires of a scenario before a bite victim becomes entitled to compensation.