What is Dog Bite First Aid?

Dan Cavallari

Dog bites are common injuries in suburban areas as well as in other communities, so it is important to have a solid understanding of dog bite first aid. The first step in executing dog bite first aid is to get the victim away from the dog, or to isolate the dog so it cannot attack again. When doing so, anyone attempting dog bite first aid should be careful around the dog and not put himself in danger of being bitten, too. Once the victim is at a safe distance and the dog is securely contained, put on any available safety equipment such as rubber gloves and glasses. If none are available, do not touch the wound or the victim.

Dog bites may require hospital care.
Dog bites may require hospital care.

A dog bite most often results in one or more puncture wounds, meaning dog bite first aid often requires a visit to the hospital. Before taking that step, however, one should attempt to clean out the wound with warm water and soap. Again, if the person administering first aid does not have safety equipment — and assuming the victim is not the person administering first aid — the first aid responder should never touch the wound. Diseases can be transmitted through blood, and one should take appropriate precautions to avoid direct contact with another person's blood.

A dog bite often requires in one or more puncture wounds.
A dog bite often requires in one or more puncture wounds.

Flushing the wound out with warm water and soap will help to kill bacteria that can cause infection, but dog bite first aid must take into consideration a more important and dangerous possibility: rabies. Any dog that becomes aggressive toward a human or another dog, especially dogs without appropriate identifying tags, are at risk of having rabies, which can be fatal to both the dog and the human victim. Even if the dog shows no other outward signs of rabies, one should be sure to get the victim to a doctor immediately to be professionally assessed. A rabies shot may be necessary at this point.

Depending on the severity of the bite, dog bite first aid may include getting stitches to close up the wound. If the wound is bleeding profusely at the scene of the incident, use a clean rag or other garment to apply pressure directly to the wound. Do not tie a tourniquet to stop bleeding, as this can lead to much more serious injury or medical issues. Applying direct pressure to the wound is a much safer option, though it may be somewhat painful for the victim. If bleeding persists, it is important to get the victim to a hospital immediately.

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Discussion Comments


Rabies is not as common in the United States as it is in other countries, and most dogs have been vaccinated, so the rabies risk is pretty small (if you're talking about the neighbor's dog or similar). However, if the dog's owner cannot produce documentation that the dog has been vaccinated, a trip to the doctor is probably in order.

Certainly, for a strange dog, the bite victim should seek immediate medical attention, especially for a serious bite.

For less serious wounds, or if the family dog is responsible, wash the wound and apply antibiotic ointment and a bandage.

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