Learn All About Dog Bites

Dogs may be man’s best friend, but they are still animals that can bite. In fact, around 4.5 million people in the United States are bitten by dogs every year, with 900,000 of those suffering some type of infection according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). This means dogs bite one out of 72 people.

Keep your dog from biting

Avoid being a dog bite victim by training your dog not to bite. Here are some tips:

1. Socialize with your dog

Dogs are social animals and they love the interaction with people, places, and situations. While still a puppy, expose her to your family and friends. If a puppy is well-socialized, he will not only avoid being shy but also being fearful. And when a dog is less likely to be fearful, he is less likely to be aggressive too, which triggers the desire to bite.

2. Play with your dog but avoid aggressive games

Play and exercise with your dog regularly so that your dog will have an outlet for his excess mental and physical energy. Otherwise, this can might be directed toward nervous energy. Avoid playing aggressive games such as wrestling, tug-of-war or any rough play with them. This might lead to dominance issues and it can confuse your puppy as to what the rules are. Remember, you are now his pack leader and you are always on the winning side – meaning, you’re the one who should be dominating him.

3. Spray or neuter your dog

Spraying and neutering not only prevents your pet from mate-hunting and having an unwanted litter, but it also keeps them more well-behaved. Many aggression problems in dogs can be avoided by neutering while they are still young.

4. Teach your dog to obey

To make a dog easier to control, work on their obedience training. Teach them basic commands like sit, stay, come, stop, heel and down to keep them focused on you on the time when he will be encountering uncomfortable situations. A trained, obedient dog is less likely to bite.

5. Teach your dog that his mouth doesn’t go with human skin

At first, a puppy has no idea about how soft and sensitive a human skin is. Sometimes, he can bite too hard when playing. Teach him not to bite too hard by reacting with a loud yelp every time he bites your hands hard, even playfully. Act like you’re hurt, ignore him and stop playing with him for a minute. If your puppy continues to nip at you, leave the room for a while. This should startle your puppy and make him realize that biting will only hurt you and interrupt your game. Repeat the process until your puppy learns not to bite hard during playtime.

They also tend to put their mouth’s on people’s hands whenever they are stroked and patted. Distract him by feeding them treats with your other hand. This will teach him to get used to being touched without mouthing.

6. Give toys

Another alternative instead of treats to use as a distraction are toys. When your puppy comes to you and gnaws on your fingers and toes, swap your body part for a toy they can chew on, like bones or better yet, teething toys. Keep him busy with his toy. If you are going to take him out, carry a toy in your pocket to give him something to bite if he would try to bite on you.

Reward your dog and stay positive with him7. Reward your dog and stay positive with him

During training, you have to use positive reinforcement. It is a form of training that rewards good behavior rather than punishing bad behavior. When your dog obeys you or does something you like, praise them, pet them and give them a treat so he can associate a specific action to a rewarding time for him. Giving them punishments like hitting, leash pulling and rolling them over would only trigger their innate aggressive behavior, making them respond with biting.

8. Don’t try to stop your dog from growling

A dog’s growl is a signal that he is uncomfortable with a specific situation or a person, warning you that he might bite. A lot of dog owners respond to this by telling the dog to stop, or by punishing them for growling. But a dog growling is better than a dog biting without warning. When your dog growls, pay attention to what is causing it. Is it your visitor, a cat approaching his food bowl, or a person jogging in your neighborhood? Know why your dog growls and then teach them to be comfortable with those people or situations. Once he becomes comfortable with those, he will find no reason to growl.

9. Call an expert

If you observe aggressive tendencies with your pet, or if he has already bitten someone in the past, you may call in a veterinarian or a professional dog trainer to help you manage your dog’s behavior. Dog aggression is a behavior problem that is oftentimes too hard to handle on your own.

10. Vaccinate your dog

You can help in preventing aggressive behavior and the tendency to bite, but it doesn’t mean your dog can never bite at all. When triggered and when given the right circumstances, any dog has the potential to bite people, even his owner. So keep your vaccinations up-to-date and be sure they get those anti-rabies and anti-tetanus shots.

How to treat dog bites

NOTE:  This is only general advice.  If you have any doubts about the wound or if the dog was properly vaccinated go to an emergency room or see a doctor immediately.  Do not wait!

If you or somebody in your household is bitten by a dog, examine if it’s minor or severe. A dog bite could cause holes in the skin, creating a puncture, or a cut (laceration) with some abrasion. You need to learn the first aid treatments for bites since animal saliva contains millions of bacteria that could cause infection. Here’s how to treat dog bites:

1. Minor wounds

If the bite caused a scrape or gash, cleanse it under running water. Encourage bleeding to prevent bacteria from entering the body. If the wound is not yet bleeding, gently squeeze it for blood to come out. Then disinfect it using isopropyl alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. Apply a topical antibiotic cream if you have some, and then cover the wound with a bandage or gauze. If you experience pain and discomfort, take painkillers. Consider seeking medical advice for a dog bite just to make sure it will be fine.

If the bite is from someone else’s dog try to find out immediately if it has had the rabies vaccination. If not or if there is any doubt go to an emergency room or a doctor immediately.

2. Severe wounds

In the event of any type of puncture of severe wound immediately seek medical advice. The doctor will check for more severe damage such as torn ligaments or tendons, see if your wound needs stiches and generally make sure there will be no long term impact from the bite.

Health risks from dog bites

Dog bites could cause health problems and disease complications, especially if not treated properly.The number one thing to be prevented after dog bites would be an infection. Signs of infection would include:

  • Severe pain in the wound
  • Redness and swelling around the wound
  • Loss of sensation around the wound
  • Fluid or pus oozing from the wound
  • Fever or chills
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulties in breathing
  • Muscle weakness

Once these symptoms are encountered, seek medical treatment immediately. Also, if the person bitten by a dog has diabetes, liver disease, HIV and other conditions, a person could be more susceptible to infection and needs medical help to avoid complications.

Medical help is especially needed as well, if the bite is on the hands, feet, face, scalp, nose, ear, genitals, joint, tendon or ligament. These areas are more prone to infections and complications.

The most common forms of infection caused by dog bites are rabies and tetanus.

1. Rabies

Rabies, which is usually transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal, is a fatal viral infection that affects the nervous system. Today, it is rarely acquired in the US, but it is still common in other parts of the world like Africa, Asia and Central and South America. According to the World Health Organization, around 59,000 people die of rabies in the world annually.

After the bite, it usually takes four to 12 weeks for a person to experience symptoms of rabies once they are infected. But symptoms could actually appear from a few days and even up to six years. The first symptoms of rabies are flu-like and may last for several days. Other symptoms would include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle weakness
  • Tingling sensation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Furious types of rabies might cause a person to be hyperactive and show erratic behavior, along with these other symptoms:

  • Anxiety and confusion
  • Excessive salivation
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Fear of water
  • Insomnia
  • Hallucinations
  • Partial paralysis

The key to fighting rabies is a quick response: getting professional help and rabies vaccine once symptoms are detected. It’s better to avoid this by staying away from strange dogs. Rabid dogs usually seem to be partially paralyzed, have strange behaviors, acts aggressively and salivating a lot.

2. Tetanus

Tetanus is also a deadly infection that affects the muscles and the nervous system. Commonly known as “lockjaw,” tetanuscan be acquired when a dog bite makes a bacteria called Clostridium tetani to enter the skin. Tetanus is rare nowadays in the US, with only around 30 cases reported annually.

Symptoms of tetanus infection can appear from four days to three weeks. Usual symptoms include muscle stiffness in the jaw muscles (hence the name lockjaw) and spasms. Other common signs of tetanus are:

  • Stiffness of neck
  • Stiffness of abdominal muscles
  • Painful spasms and stiffness all over the body
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Fever and sweating
  • Headache
  • Elevated blood pressure and fast heart rate

If a person experiences these symptoms after a dog bite, take him to the hospital quickly. Tetanus is a medical emergency and it needs immediate treatment with tetanus immunoglobulin (TIG), tetanus vaccination and antibiotics.

NOTE:  This is only general advice.  If you have any doubts about the wound or if the dog was properly vaccinated go to an emergency room or see a doctor immediately.  Do not wait!