As many as 4.5 million people suffer dog bites each year, and 20% of these people need medical attention for their wounds. Any dog can bite if provoked, and if you or a loved one are unlucky enough to be bitten by a dog, it’s important you take the right steps to avoid complications, like an infection. Dog bites have a high chance of transferring bacteria, including Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Pasteurella, and Capnocytophaga, which can cause infection.
Dog bites are unique wounds because of the shape of dogs’ teeth. The front teeth grab and compress while smaller teeth tear at your skin. You end up with a jagged wound that is vulnerable to infection and scars.
At The Aesthetic Surgery Center, our aesthetic surgeon Elliott H. Rose, MD, sees many patients who have scarring as a result of severe dog bites. To minimize complications, here are the steps you should take right away if you’re bitten by a dog.
Immediate steps after a dog bite
In the minutes after a dog bite, take the following steps:
Use mild, unscented soap and warm water to gently rinse the bite area for 5-10 minutes.
Use a clean cloth to press against the wound to stop or slow the bleeding.
Apply over-the-counter antibiotic cream or ointment, if you have any.
Use a sterile bandage or wrap to cover the wound. Keep the bite area covered until you’re able to seek medical care. Change the bandage several times per day, once a doctor has examined your bite wound.
Keep your eye on the wound for signs of infection. Redness, swelling, increased pain, or fever are indications that you need additional medical care.
See a doctor
You should seek a doctor’s care within 8 hours of your bite. If you wait longer, you raise your risk of infection. People who are immunocompromised or who have diabetes have an even greater risk of infection.
Most likely, you’ll seek care at an urgent care or primary care office or the emergency room. You’ll give details about how the bite happened and whether or not you know the dog. This information is important because unvaccinated and feral dogs can carry rabies.
To care for your dog bite, your doctor cleans the wound again and may prescribe antibiotics if an infection is a concern.
They also ask about your last tetanus shot. These immunizations usually last 10 years, but if your dog bite is especially dirty and it’s been 5 years since your last shot, you may need a booster.
Dog bites are usually left open to heal, but if yours is on your face or scarring is a serious concern, you may need stitches.
Plastic surgery for dog bite repair and scar revision
If you do suffer serious damage from a dog bite, especially to highly visible areas like your face, lips, nose, neck, ears, or hands, Dr. Rose can help. He is an experienced plastic surgeon who uses sophisticated techniques to revitalize facial features and flatten scars. His techniques also restore the function of torn nerves or muscles.
If you need treatment following a dog bite, contact The Aesthetic Surgery Center in New York City. Call today or use this website to schedule an appointment. Dr. Rose welcomes patients from around the country and the world.