Dog bites can be painful, upsetting, and expensive — but that's not the worst that victims can face after they've been bitten. Anytime a dog bites someone and punctures the skin, the victim can be faced with infections that are outright lethal.
Here's how to protect yourself:
1. Know Your Risks From A Bite.
You can't always prevent a dog bite. Even normally well-behaved dogs can bite if they're sick or scared and some dogs are simply aggressive for no reason. Unfortunately, dogs carry numerous kinds of bacteria in their mouths, including:
- Capnocytophaga bacteria
- Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
- Clostridium tetani (tetanus)
Most of these are harmless to dogs but can make humans very sick. People with weakened immune systems are particularly susceptible to these infections and these illnesses can become life-threatening rather quickly without treatment.
2. Take Immediate Action If You Are Bitten.
You should seek treatment right away at your local hospital if the bleeding is serious or the wounds are severe. If your wounds are smaller, you need to do the following things as possible to reduce your chances of getting sick:
- Press gently on any wounds that have broken your skin. You want to let the blood flow out of the wound a little because that naturally helps flush out some of the bacteria that might be in there.
- Wash your wounds gently with warm water and soap and apply an over-the-counter antibacterial cream to them. Then wrap your wounds with a clean, dry cloth to control any bleeding until you see a doctor.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), almost 1 out of every 5 people who get bit by a dog needs medical treatment. Don't assume that you're fine just because the bite isn't very deep and doesn't look like it needs stitches. You can't necessarily tell that a wound is infected just by looking at it.
For example, in 2019, an Ohio woman ended up in a medically-induced coma and ultimately had her hands and legs amputated after her German shepherd puppy merely licked an open wound on her body.
3. Contact An Attorney.
Even a small bite and a relatively superficial wound can lead to big medical bills. If you have an infection, it may take weeks or months to properly heal — and you may be left with scars that will never fully go away, even with treatment. You may need time off work, and you could experience significant psychological distress, as well.
You have a legal right to ask the dog's owner for compensation for your losses but most people and insurance companies aren't eager to pay unless they're forced to do so. A dog bite lawyer can help you assess your claim and determine how to hold the dog's owner responsible for your losses. Contact a local dog bite lawyer for additional reading and information.