Saturday, August 18, 2012

Dog Bites

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By Nurse Diane

This past weekend I had to babysit my 4-legged grandkids.  My son and his wife came for a visit, and they have 3 dogs.  Two of them stayed with me, while the third went to stay with my parents.  They are very good dogs, but two of them are rescue dogs, and had been abused.  This concerns me, because you never know what they have lived through, and when they may snap at you for no reason.  I have always been a little leery of large dogs, having been bitten when I was younger.  I try to keep my distance, especially if I do not know the animal.

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Dog bites are very common, and are one of the many things that are brought to court on Judge Judy.  The primary message that Judge Judy discusses is to always keep a leash on your dog, and keep them under you control.  This is why the leash laws were established, to prevent injury and any other property damage.

Some tips to follow when bitten by a dog include:

Stay Safe. Secure the dog or the victim. Move one away from the other. If the dog's owner is around, instruct him or her to secure the dog. If not, move the victim to a safe location. Dogs may bite because their territory is threatened. Don't start any treatment until there is a reasonable expectation that the dog won't attack again.

If you are not the victim, practice universal precautions and wear personal protective equipment if available.

Control any bleeding by following the appropriate steps. Avoid using a tourniquet unless there is severe bleeding that cannot be controlled any other way.

Once the bleeding is controlled, clean the wound with soap and warm water. Do not be afraid to clean inside the wound. Be sure to rinse all the soap away, or it will cause irritation later.

Cover the wound with a clean, dry dressing. You can put antibiotic ointment on the wound before covering. Watch for signs of infection:
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Heat
  • Weeping pus

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Always call a physician to determine if you should be seen. Some dog bites need antibiotics, particularly if they are deep puncture wounds. Additionally, many municipalities have regulations for reporting dog bites and monitoring the dogs, and that is often initiated by contact with a doctor.

Any unidentified dog runs the risk of carrying rabies. If the dog cannot be identified and the owner cannot show proof of rabies vaccination, the victim must seek medical attention. Rabies is always fatal to humans if not treated.

The wound may need stitches. If the edges of a laceration are unable to touch, or if there are any avulsions, the wound will need emergency medical attention. Wounds on the face or hands should be seen by a physician because of the likelihood of scarring and loss of function.

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