A bite from a dog can range in severity from a superficial puncture wound to a disfiguring injury. Regardless of its severity, it is important that you respond appropriately to it so that you can avoid medical complications and protect your legal rights.
The appropriate response to a dog bite depends on several factors. Examples include the severity of the bite and whether you can verify the dog’s vaccination history, as well as your own.
1. Get medical attention
For a serious injury that bleeds profusely, you should call 911 to summon emergency medical help. In the meantime, you should try to stop the bleeding by covering the wound with a clean cloth and applying pressure.
If the wound does not seem to be serious, you can cover it with a bandage after washing it with water and soap and applying antibiotic cream, if available. A superficial dog bite injury may not require emergency medical attention, but it may still be a good idea to have a doctor look at it.
2. Obtain the owner’s contact information
You may not know who owns the dog that bites you, but if possible, obtain his or her contact information. This allows you to get in touch with the owner later to confirm whether the dog is current on rabies vaccination. It is also useful if filing an insurance claim or a lawsuit.
3. Have any necessary vaccinations
If you can positively verify the dog’s vaccination history, you do not need any post-exposure prophylaxis against rabies. However, dogs can transmit other diseases. For example, if you are not up to date on your tetanus vaccination, you should receive a booster shot following the bite.