Dog bites are more common than you think, as dogs can bite due to stress, fear, or shock. Other times, they also do it when they feel threatened or when they’re trying to protect something valuable to them like their food or toy. DogsBite reports that approximately 4.5 million dog bites happen annually. Of this number, 1 out of 5 bites typically turns out to be infected. If left unattended, these can result in serious infections that can become fatal.
Whatever the cause, a dog bite is dangerous and has consequences for the dog that did it, its owner, and the victim. Here’s all you need to know about dog bites:
What happens when your dog bites someone
For the victim, a dog bite can cause an infection like rabies, tetanus, or sepsis. Symptoms of an infection include drainage from the wound and difficulty in moving the affected body part. Signs that the infection has spread are fever, night sweats, and shaking. If left untreated, these can progress to hallucinations, cerebral dysfunction, and even death.
If you’re concerned about your dog, don’t be. The authorities (such as the police or animal services) will treat it as a civil case. It is very rare for dog bites to be treated as a crime unless proven that the owner purposely meant for it to happen.
In terms of expenses, the medical costs of dog bites are not cheap. In California, for example, it can cost up to $30,000 to cover hospital bills.
What to do when your dog bit someone
The first thing to do is to get your dog away from the victim. Next, the victim must thoroughly wash the bitten area with soap and water to avoid further infection. A report on Count on 2 News recommends running the dog bite wound under running water for at least two minutes for better cleaning. The victim must also seek medical attention as soon as possible to be assessed.
Your dog will need to be quarantined for at least 10 days to determine whether they are showing signs of rabies. As such, they will be kept in a kennel or animal shelter for observation. While cases vary depending on specific circumstances and state laws, the dog may be euthanized. Still, this is a very rare occurrence and usually only happens if the dog has rabies.
In the event that the victim files a lawsuit against you, your liability pet insurance—should you have one—will also protect you and cover the medical costs involved. If you don’t have this, you will have to pay for the expenses out of your own pocket.
How to mitigate the health consequences of dog bites
If your dog has been proven to have rabies, the victim will have to get a vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s rabies guidelines inform us that a dog bite victim must receive a vaccination immediately after exposure. If they have not received rabies vaccines in the past, they will need 4 doses over 2 weeks. They will also need a medication called rabies immunoglobulin. All these (excluding other procedures like wound treatment or hospital confinement) can amount to an average of $3,800.
Dog bites can happen anytime and they are a very serious matter. Make sure to avoid these by having your dog vaccinated, getting liability pet insurance, and even having your dog wear a muzzle as recommended in our post ‘Dog Muzzle – When & How To Use It?’