Dogs are man’s best friend. However, even the most docile dogs will bite under certain circumstances, and behavioral problems in companion dogs make biting even more likely.
If you are bitten by a dog, you’ll need to take a number of steps to protect your health and safety. Below, we cover what you should do immediately following a dog bite, and when you should seek medical attention.
We also discuss liability for dog bites, and how to seek compensation for your injuries should this become necessary.
Dog Bite First Aid
If you’re attacked or bitten by a dog, the first step is to get to a safe place. Once you’ve gotten to a safe place, immediately clean the wound.
For minor wounds:
- Wash the wound and the area around it with mild soap and water
- Apply an antibiotic ointment
- Cover the wound with a clean bandage, and change bandaging as needed
For deeper wounds:
- If the wound is bleeding, apply pressure to it with a clean, dry cloth to stop bleeding
- If you can’t stop the bleeding or feel faint, call 911 immediately and ask for an ambulance
- See a healthcare provider on the same day — deep puncture wounds need to be cleaned, and your provider may prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection
Seeking Medical Attention Beyond the First Day
If you sustain a severe wound from a dog bite, you’ll need to seek medical attention on the same day, as the puncture wound should be treated by a medical professional.
In the days following, you should seek medical attention if:
- The wound becomes red, warm, painful or swollen
- You develop a fever
- You don’t know if the dog was vaccinated against rabies
- It’s been five years since your last tetanus shot
Diseases New Yorkers Can Get from Dog Bites
Dog bites can spread diseases from dogs to people. About 20% of dog bite wounds become infected with bacteria, and you can also acquire serious systemic diseases.
Dog bites can cause the following diseases:
- Rabies. This viral infection is one of the most serious diseases you can get from a dog bite. Rabies is rare in the US, but is still a risk, especially if you don’t know the dog that bit you. Rabies affects the brain and is almost always fatal once symptoms appear. It can be prevented by vaccinating dogs against rabies and getting vaccinated as soon as possible if you’re bitten by an infected dog.
- Capnocytophaga These bacteria live in the mouths of people, dogs, and cats. If you have a weakened immune system, you could potentially be sickened by exposure to Capnocytophaga bacteria from a dog bite.
- Pasteurella This bacteria is present in almost half of infected dog bite wounds and causes a painful, red infection at the wound site. In serious infections, you could experience swollen lymph nodes, swelling in the joints, and difficulty moving.
- MRSA. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a type of staph infection that’s resistant to certain antibiotics. Dogs can carry MRSA with no symptoms, but it could cause a serious infection in your bite wound, or even spread to the bloodstream, which is life-threatening.
- This is a toxin produced by Clostridium tetani bacteria. This causes rigid paralysis and is more likely when you sustain a deep bite wound.
Kinds of Dog Bite Injuries and Complications
Depending on where and how hard the dog bit you, a dog bite can also cause serious injuries and complications, including:
- If the bite was to the face, which is common in children, the dog bite could cause permanent disfigurement
- A deep bite can damage the nerves, muscles and blood vessels under the skin. Nerve injuries are especially common in dog bites sustained to the hand
- A large dog bite can cause broken, splintered or fractured bones, especially if sustained to the hands or feet
New York Dog Bite Liability
Dog bites not only have the potential to cause serious injuries and illnesses; the associated medical bills can quickly add up, as can lost wages. In some cases, you may even be left with permanent disability or disfigurement.
In these cases, the only way to relieve the financial burden on your family is to seek compensation from the dog’s owner through a personal injury lawsuit.
In New York, dog owners can be held liable for injuries that result from negligence on the part of the owner. It may also be possible to hold the owner liable in a premises liability suit.
For example, if a dog owner fails to restrain the dog and it bites someone while running loose, this would be considered negligence. On the other hand, if you’re at a friend’s house and tease your friend’s dog, which then bites you, your friend would not be liable in most cases.
An experienced New York personal injury attorney can advise you as to whether you have grounds to file a claim.
First things first, if you’re bitten by a dog, take immediate action to ensure your health and safety. When it becomes necessary to seek compensation for your injuries, know your rights, and get the compensation you deserve.