5 Steps for Handling Dog Bite Wounds

Dog bites often cause sores, both small and large. Although it can happen to anyone, dog bites are more common in children under 5 years of age. Handling dog bite wounds needs to be done properly so as not to cause infection.

Most dog bite wounds in children occur on the head and neck. In older children and adults, dog bite wounds are more common on the arms and legs. This difference in the location of the bite depends on the height of the dog and the height of the person being bitten.

Dangers of Dog Bites

The first thing you should do after being bitten by a dog is to immediately distance yourself from the dog. This is important to reduce your risk of being bitten again. When the situation is clear, you can find out if the dog is infected with rabies or not.

If you know the owner of the dog that bit you, ask for the dog's vaccination history. Be sure to get the owner's name, phone number, and contact information for the vet where the dog was vaccinated.

If the dog that bit you is not accompanied by its owner, ask people around the scene if anyone knows the dog's owner so you can find out the data above. All of this data is needed to determine whether or not you need to get a rabies vaccine.

Dog bite wounds can cause the following conditions:

  • Bacterial infection

    Dogs' mouths are very dirty and contain germs that can cause serious infections in injured skin. The risk of infection is higher in people with compromised immune systems and people with diabetes.

  • Nerve and muscle damage

    A deep bite can cause damage to the nerves, muscles, and blood vessels under the skin. This risk is present in all dog bite wounds, including small-looking wounds such as stab wounds.

  • Fracture

    Bites by large dogs can cause fractures, especially in the legs, feet, arms and hands.

  • Rabies

    Rabies is a serious viral infection that affects the central nervous system. If left untreated, this infection can lead to death.

  • Tetanus

    Tetanus is a bacterial infection that can be fatal if it occurs in people who have not received the tetanus vaccine

First Aid for Dog Bite Wounds

The type of treatment for the wound depends on the severity of the dog bite wound. In general, the following is the first aid you need to do:

1. Wash the dog bite marks until clean

If your skin is not injured, wash the area with warm water and soap. You can also apply an antiseptic solution to the wound area to prevent infection.

2. Wash and press the injured area

If your skin is injured, wash the area with soap and warm water, and gently apply pressure to the wound to help remove and clean germs.

3. Wrap the wound with a cloth

If the bite is bleeding, use a clean cloth and apply gentle pressure to the wound to stop the bleeding. You can also cover the wound with a sterile bandage.

4. Taking painkillers

If you feel pain, you can take pain relievers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, to reduce the pain.

5. Check with the doctor

If there are signs of infection, such as red, swollen, warm, or pus-filled sores, consult a doctor immediately to get the appropriate antibiotic medication. Usually the doctor will give antibiotics, such as amoxicillin-clavulanic acid, to be consumed for 3-5 days.

If the wound continues to bleed despite pressure on the wound for 10 minutes or if blood is flowing profusely from the wound, you need to be treated immediately in the emergency department (ER).

You should also consult a doctor if the dog that bit you has no known history of rabies vaccinations, the dog looks sick, or you are in an area where rabies is endemic.

To prevent dangerous complications from infection with a dog bite wound, you should immediately consult a doctor, even if the wound looks small. You need to tell your doctor about your history of tetanus vaccine, because wounds from dog bites are also at risk of causing tetanus.

The doctor will give the tetanus vaccine according to the coverage of your tetanus vaccination history. A tetanus vaccine booster should be given if it has been more than 5 years since you last had a tetanus vaccine.

Dog bite wounds need to be handled properly. It is also important to trace the vaccination history of the dog that bit you as much as possible. That way, the risk of complications due to dog bite wounds can be reduced.

Written by:

dr. Sonny Seputra, M.Ked.Klin, SpB, FINACS

(Surgeon Specialist)