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Many pet owners consider dogs a part of their family. Pets can bring us so much happiness and comfort. However, they can also be a source of problems. It is fairly common for dogs to chomp on furniture, shoes, and pillows. They can be a neighborhood nuisance when they continuously bark at passers-by. But nothing is worse than having our dog bite someone. When a pet becomes aggressive, it can attack people suddenly - even those that they know. 

In the U.S., approximately 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year. Of these numbers, about 20% require emergency medical care. Sadly, most of those injured are children aged five to nine. Here are some known health consequences of pet bites:

Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome 

When a dog bites someone, it can cause the victim to experience emotional trauma from the incident. They may develop an unreasonable fear of dogs. Even when a harmless dog barks at them, they may immediately panic and have anxiety attacks. When left untreated, these symptoms can lead to post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) which can have lasting effects and can require long-term therapy. 

Rabies

When a rabid dog bites someone, one of the possible consequences is the victim developing rabies. Without proper medical care, rabies is fatal. Once the symptoms start to appear, it may be too late and there is a very high chance of death. Rabies can occur when the offending dog is not vaccinated against the virus. Through the saliva, the dog can transmit the virus to the victim of the bite. 

Tetanus

Another side effect of dog bites is tetanus. Tetanus infection can appear if the bite gets contaminated with soil. Those who have had a recent vaccine against tetanus may not need additional injections. However, those who have had the vaccine five years prior may need another shot to reduce their risk. 

Sepsis

Sepsis can occur if the wound develops an infection. You will notice that the wound develops redness and swelling. Often, there will be copious amounts of pus oozing out from the location of the dog bite. The victim can also experience confusion, daytime sleepiness, pain and discomfort, and high or low body temperature. This infection is very typical for facial bites.

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What to do when dogs bite someone

If a dog bites you, here are some steps that you should take as soon as possible: 

Obtain the name and contact details of the dog owner

Get the dog owner’s name and contact details. Even if you don’t have plans of contacting an attorney, it is good to have their information. It is also prudent to ask about their liability insurance. This is particularly true for dog bites that worsen after a few days. It is better to err on the side of caution. If there are witnesses, get their names and contact details as well. 

Take a picture of the dog

Take pictures of the dog, your injuries, and other pertinent details in your immediate surrounding that may help you when you seek medical care. If provided, take note of the vaccination history of the dog. Knowing the dog’s vaccination history is important because this can dictate your risk of developing any complications. 

Seek necessary medical care 

If you sustained severe injuries, make sure to have them checked by a medical doctor. They will know if you require stitches, medications, or vaccinations. Expect your doctor to ask about the dog’s history, as this will be crucial in their assessment of the extent of treatment they need to administer. 

Report to animal control officers

Once you have your injuries checked, don’t forget to report the dog biting incident to the relevant authorities. Animal control can check on the dog and quarantine it if necessary to monitor for diseases. 

For dog owners, here are ways you can prevent your dog from harming someone:

  • Be wary of aggression: If you notice your dog growling or barking aggressively at anyone in your family, your guests or strangers, enroll your dog in behavior training. 
  • Secure your dog: Make sure your dog is secure in your yard. Keep fencing locked at all times, especially if you are out of the house. 
  • Vaccinate your dog: To reduce the risks of rabies and other infections, have your dog checked at least yearly by a veterinarian. 

Our pets are adorable, but like humans they have emotions too. Dogs can become aggressive and attack people, especially when they are provoked. These tips will help you reduce the chances of your pet harming others and give you tips on what to do if you are harmed by a dog or other animal.

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