Dog bites can occur in an instant, leaving you injured and in need of medical attention. While a wild or stray animal may bite a person, many bites come from unknown pets or even a friend’s dog. If you are the victim of an animal bite, you may feel scared, overwhelmed, and confused about what to do next. Here are some recommended practices for how to proceed after receiving a dog bite.
Steps to Take After a Dog Bites You
Identify the Dog’s Owner
Sometimes the situations where dog bites occur are chaotic, such as an overcrowded dog park. Even though your first instinct may be to leave, you’ll want to try to find the person responsible for the dog immediately. Once you do, you’ll want to procure their name and address and ask them to provide proof of rabies vaccination.
Individuals who stray or wild animals attack will not be able to complete this step, but they will want to note details about the dog that bit them. The size, color, fur length, and other identifying characteristics can usually help animal control to find the dog. Also, try to notice if the animal is acting strangely, as this can often signify a dog is carrying rabies and alert you that you need to go to the emergency room immediately as well as inform local police and animal control so that they can stop the dog before it hurts anyone else.
Seek Medical Care
Animal bites carry bacteria, so it’s wise to seek out medical care for any bite wound that breaks the skin, even if you know there’s no rabies risk. Even some minor bites may result in infections that result in significant scarring.
Individuals suffering from deep or extensive bites should call their local emergency number for immediate medical assistance or have someone drive them to the hospital. Dog and cat bites cause deeper puncture wounds that need more extensive medical treatment than you can complete at home with latex gloves, soap, and water.
File a Dog Bite Report
After you’ve received care, the next step is to file a dog bite report. You’ll need to file a statement regardless of if you’re bitten by a stray or wild animal. If the attack occurs in Houston, Texas, you will file the report with the BARC animal shelter.
Filing a dog bite report allows authorities to track animals with a history of aggression and helps prevent animal bites in the future. If you take legal action against the owner of the dog, having a report filed could benefit you if you pursue compensation for medical bills.
Photograph Your Bite Wounds
Scarring, puncture wounds, tendon damage, and severe tissue tears can all occur from dog bites. Documenting the damage you received will be helpful if you seek financial reimbursement for your medical issues and will also allow you to track the healing process. If possible, take photos before your wounds have been dressed with a sterile bandage or treated with an antibiotic ointment.
Contact an Attorney
Navigating legal issues around animal bites can be challenging, and you will want a professional handling your case. In addition, numerous health problems can arise from mammalian bites, such as developing infection, decreased tissue function in the affected area, bleeding, bruising, and poor circulation in the injured area. The medical conditions caused by a dog attack are often expensive to treat, and you choose to seek compensation for your bills, lost wages, and possibly emotional suffering.
Track Your Healing
Should you decide that seeking compensation for your injuries is the best course of action, you will want to keep a journal during the healing process. Take a few minutes every day to note how your body is healing and any emotional effects you are feeling from the animal bite.
Complete your journal entries honestly, without hiding pain or embellishing it. You may also want to detail the steps you take to complete injured tissue wound care, such as how often you apply antibiotic ointment or use a clean cloth to wash your wounds, to prove you have followed your care provider’s instructions during recovery.
Common Injuries Associated With Dog Bites
A dog bite doesn’t have to be deep to cause major medical problems. Any animal bite has a high risk of complications, and dog and cat teeth carry bacteria that can cause severe health issues. Complications that sometimes occur from most animal bites include:
Tetanus and Other Infections
The bacteria in an animal’s mouth can cause problems when it enters your bloodstream, and even cleansing the wound with mild soap isn’t always enough to prevent infection from taking hold. Individuals with immune system disorders or conditions like peripheral arterial disease are at greater peril from animal-borne infections.
Tetanus is a life-threatening infection that can be contracted from both shallow and deeper wounds. Many healthcare providers suggest getting a tetanus shot when you receive an animal bite, even if your own pet injured you. If it has been more than five years since your last tetanus shot, and you are the victim of an animal bite, it is worth asking your doctor if you should consider getting another vaccination.
Bone and Joint Trauma
A dog’s jaws are surprisingly strong, and even an average-sized dog may inflict crushing injuries that damage joints and bones. In addition, individuals who attempt to pet an unfriendly dog may suffer a finger joint injury, resulting in decreased movement in the digit that may be permanent or temporary. Deeper wounds, such as those that reveal exposed muscle and bone, can have a long-term impact on joint mobility.
Punctures, Lacerations, and Scarring
If a dog bit you and you didn’t see excessive damage, you may have been tempted to brush the incident off, wash the wound with mild soap, and carry on with your life. However, if you experienced serious bleeding, hopefully, you pursued medical attention and received stitches if necessary. Deeper puncture wounds and lacerations can cause significant scarring.
How to Prevent Animal Bites
While some random animal attacks are wholly unavoidable, most other animal bites can be avoided by taking preventive measures. All animals should be treated respectfully, and watching for animals that are acting strangely can help you dodge a potentially dangerous situation.
Teach Children Safe Behavior
Most children don’t mean to tease animals or play with them in ways that cause animals to behave aggressively, but unfortunately, a child’s rowdy behavior can contribute to animal bites.
Children also may not understand that there are certain situations where you must treat even the most trustworthy dogs with caution, such as when a mother dog is with her puppies. Teaching children how to identify dog body language, to ask for permission from the owner before approaching or petting a strange dog, and how to interact with dogs appropriately can prevent dog bites and teach children a healthy respect for animals.
Don’t Try to Catch a Stray or Wild Animal
Some animal behaviorists believe that most animal bites happen when humans interact with animals in inappropriate ways. Keeping a reasonable distance between yourself and any unknown animals helps prevent you from suffering a bad bite or puncture wound.
In addition, avoid feeding animals or luring them near your property. This precaution will help prevent unpleasant encounters and serve as a form of disease control, helping prevent your pets from being exposed to illnesses a stray may carry. Pets and people with weakened immune systems are especially vulnerable to diseases and parasites transmitted by wild animals.
Don’t Assume an Unknown Pet Is Friendly
If you’re an animal lover, you may instinctively want to pet every domesticated animal you encounter. Unfortunately, not all pets are comfortable with strangers.
Even if an animal is friendly, you have no way of knowing if it is up to date on critical vaccinations, like its rabies shot. While no one wants to consider the possibility that they could suffer a severe bite wound trying to interact with someone’s pet, it’s wise to treat unknown pets with a healthy amount of caution until you know they are friendly.
Don’t Touch an Injured Wild or Stray Animal
Don’t try to doctor wild animals or treat their wounds. While you might have the best intentions when trying to help a stray dog, you may end up needing medical attention if the animal is scared or frightened.
When in doubt, don’t approach strange animals. Contact your local animal control service or rescue center. Professionals have the tools and experience necessary to safely help an injured creature without putting themselves at risk.
Contact a Houston, TX, Personal Injury Lawyer
If you are the victim of a dog bite, you may wonder what legal recourse you have. Every circumstance is unique, and our team will review your case and help you determine the most promising course of action for your situation.
To learn more about your legal options following a dog bite, contact Houston Injury Lawyers at 936-251-5246. Our team is ready to provide you with the guidance you need to make the choice that serves you best.