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Bitten By A Dog? Here Is What You Need To Do!

By Dr. Nikita Toshi +2 more

A dog bite is painful and dangerous and instills a fear of the animal. It is said that roughly 20,000 deaths in India occur due to Rabies through dog bites. What is alarming is that 36% of the world’s rabies deaths occur in our country each year. Unfortunately, most victims are children who are bitten by infected dogs. In this blog, we will discuss how rabies vaccine and wound care can help prevent the fatal outcomes of dog bite.

Astonishingly enough, a person is more likely to get a dog bite from a dog he is familiar with than by a street dog! So basically, you can be bitten by a dog when you least expect it, and there probably isn’t much you can do to prevent it.

Dog Bite

Even if the dog bite is harmless to look at, it can lead to serious infections or rabies, and eventually result in death.

In case of a dog bite, you can provide first aid, but it is best to get it looked at by a doctor. This is even more important in cases of a dog bite from an unfamiliar or unknown dog. Talk to your doctor/ animal bite clinic at a hospital about administration of rabies vaccine. If the wound does not stop bleeding or there is pus formation or redness with swelling, and if the bitten region is warmer than the other parts of the body, you need to see a doctor ASAP. A dog bite must be treated with antibiotics or it will lead to infections.

Here is a general but important protocol to follow (as suggested by experts) in case of a dog bite:

  • Clean the bite wound with soap and water, gently
  • Gently pat it dry
  • If it is bleeding, apply pressure on to it to stop the bleeding
  • Put a sterile bandage over the wound
  • Consult a doctor immediately to understand the need of post exposure prophylaxis for rabies.
  • Alleviate the wounded region to a level higher than the heart. This helps in slowing down the swelling and prevents infection
  • Apply antibiotics as prescribed

It is imperative to visit a doctor immediately in case of dog bite, scratch or even licking or exposure on cut skin. Doctors will then decide the type of prophylaxis needed based on exposure and vaccination status of dog. 

Exercise extra caution if-:

  1. The dog bite wound is large, deep and gaping
  2. If you are a diabetic, cancer patient or have AIDS
  3. If you any other diseases that reduce your immunity
  4. If the wound has not stopped bleeding after 15 minutes of applying pressure
  5. If there is a nerve or tissue damage due to dog bite
  6. If in the last five years you have not taken a tetanus vaccine
  7. If you are bitten by a stray dog or an unknown dog

Washing the dog bite area with soap and water is very important. If you feel that the wound is very deep, is bleeding persistently or if you are bit in the hands or face, it is important to visit a hospital for the treatment.

Dr. Ashish Bajaj, M.B.B.S., M.D.

Also Read: How to Get Rid of Ants: Top Methods from Pest Control Experts

Did you know?

  • In the United States, an estimated 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year, with 800,000 requiring medical attention. Source: dshs.texas.gov
  • Children account for approximately half of all dog bite victims in the United States.Source: dshs.texas.gov
  • The elderly are the second most common group of dog bite victims in the United States.Source: dshs.texas.gov
  • Dog bites are the 13th leading cause of nonfatal emergency department visits in the United States Source:ncbi
  • Between 2005 and 2018, the rate of dog bite injuries in the United States increased until 2012 and then underwent a significant decline.Source:ncbi

Possible Complications in Dog Bite

Thousands of dog bites are reported each year all over the country. Most of these bites may not look serious but must be evaluated by a doctor for post-exposure prophylaxis. Children, more than adults, tend to get dog bites more often. Rabies infection is life-threatening; therefore, it is essential to consult a doctor or nearest animal bite clinic without delay. Some of the problems that may give rise to dog bite infections or other serious issues are as follows:

Place a clean towel over the injury to stop any bleeding
Try to keep the injured area elevated
Wash the bite carefully with soap and water
Apply a sterile bandage to the wound
Apply antibiotic ointment to the injury every day to prevent infection. GET RABIES VACCINATION

Dr. M.G. Kartheeka, MBBS, MD
  • Disfigurement: A bite from a big, large and ferocious dog can cause serious damage. Given that the attack itself might be serious, it may cause large-scale disfigurement and scarring. Although rare, there have been reported cases from various parts of the country where dogs have bitten off limbs of smaller children. Facial injuries caused by dog bites or scratches can also lead to scarring that may stay a lifetime.
  • Rabies: Rabies is a disease that causes acute inflammation of the brain. This disease is seen in warm-blooded animals. Most pet dogs are vaccinated from rabies, however, if you get bitten or scratched by street dogs that have lesser chances of being locally vaccinated, you need to get medical help as soon as possible. Rabies is almost fatal as the body starts showing symptoms of the same.
  • Sepsis: This rare complication caused by a dog bite injury is commonly referred to as blood poisoning. It is a potentially fatal inflammation of the affected area that can lead to serious complications. High fever, elevated heart rate and low blood pressure are some of the symptoms of sepsis. Although treatable with antibiotics in milder cases, it may turn lethal if the infection has spread.
  • Meningitis: This is an inflammation of the membrane which covers the spinal cord and the lining of the brain. Since the inflammation occurs near some of the most important body parts, meningitis may sometimes be life-threatening. Bacteria or viruses present in the dog’s saliva can give meningitis to the person bitten.

Depending upon the type of dog bite, doctors may advise post exposure management as listed below-

  • Management of animal bite wound(s)- Proper wound care and need of antibiotic
  • Passive immunization with Rabies Immunoglobulin (RIG)
  • Active immunization with Anti-rabies Vaccine (RABIES VACCINE)

Do not delay in seeking a doctor’s help because post-exposure prophylaxis for rabies is best effective when started early on. Spread this information to your loved ones to spread awareness about this life-threatening condition.

Disclaimer:  The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

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