Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Healthy Dogs

Font Size

Dog Bites

They may be our best friends, but dogs are still animals and they can bite. In fact, dogs bite more than 4 million Americans every year. One out of every five of those bites causes an injury that requires medical attention, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Children between the ages of 5 and 9 are the most frequent dog bite victims. Children are also more likely than adults to be injured by a dog bite.

Although strays or other strange dogs can bite, most of the time people are actually bitten by a dog they know, which could be a friend's dog or even the family pet.

Recommended Related to Dogs

Dehydration and Water Needs in Dogs

Dehydration is a lack of water in the body, and can cause serious complications for pets and people alike. Water is essential to all living beings, including dogs, who depend on proper daily fluid intake to maintain appropriate health. It makes up 80 percent of your dog’s body, and dissolves natural and unnatural substances as well as serves as the root of all his biological processes, including circulation, digestion and waste removal.

Read the Dehydration and Water Needs in Dogs article > >

To prevent dog bites:

  • When choosing a dog for a family pet, pick one with a good temperament.
  • Stay away from any dogs you don't know.
  • Never leave young children alone with a dog -- especially an unfamiliar one.
  • Don't try to play with any dog that is eating or feeding her puppies.
  • Whenever you approach a dog, do so slowly, and give the dog the chance to approach you.
  • If a dog becomes aggressive, do not run away or scream. Stay calm, move slowly, and don't make eye contact with the dog.

 

Dog Bite Treatments

Although you can provide first aid for a dog bite at home, it's very important to see a doctor, especially if an unfamiliar dog bit you, the bite is deep, you can't stop the bleeding, or there are any signs of infection (redness, swelling, warmth, pus). Dog bites can cause infections that need to be treated with antibiotics.

To care for a dog bite injury at home:

  • 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.

When you visit the doctor, be prepared to answer a few questions, including:

  • Do you know the owner of the dog?
  • If so, is the dog up to date on all vaccinations, including rabies?
  • Did the bite occur because the dog was provoked, or was the dog unprovoked?
  • What health conditions do you have? People with diabetes, liver disease, illnesses that suppress the immune system, and other health conditions may be at greater risk for a more severe infection.

Your doctor will examine the injury to see whether the bite was deep enough to damage muscles, tendons, nerves, or bones. Then the doctor will thoroughly clean the bite wound to remove any dirt or bacteria, and may also remove dead tissues from the wound.

Sometimes, sutures are used to close a dog bite wound; however, this practice is controversial. Although suturing the injury can reduce scarring, it also can increase the risk of infection. Whether the injury is closed may depend on its location. For example, dog bites on the face may be sutured to prevent visible scars. Very deep wounds that cause a great deal of damage may require plastic surgery. 

WebMD Medical Reference

Today on WebMD

boxer dog
Slideshow
dog on couch
Evaluator
 
bad dog
Slideshow
Sad dog and guacamole
Slideshow
 
Pit bull looking up
Article
Pets: Is My Dog Normal
Slideshow
 
Dog scratching behind ear
Slideshow
dog catching frisbee
Slideshow
 

Love your pets, hate your allergies?

Get tips for relief.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Dog Breed RMQ
Quiz
puppy eating
Slideshow
 
pooldle
Slideshow
bulldog in party hat
Slideshow