If you suffer from cynophobia, a fear of dogs, or live in an area where there are a lot of off-leash canines, you may worry about getting bitten by one of the animals. Your fears are not unwarranted, as approximately 4.5 million dog bites occur every year. If you want to make sure that you and your family are prepared for dealing with dogs that turn hostile, the following guide can serve as your primer.

Understanding the Health Risks

While most dog bites do not become infected, the ones that do can cause serious health issues. Nearly 1 out of 5 of dog bites requires medical attention.

Tetanus is a common infection that you can get from a variety of injuries, including dog bites. Even if you think you are simply suffering from a minor wound after a bite, you could be infected with tetanus.

The average incubation period of the tetanus bacteria is 10 days, although it can take up to 21 days before you begin feeling ill from the infection. If you do not receive a tetanus vaccine shot right away, you may start suffering from muscle aches, fever, headaches, sweating and even seizures.

You can also get a staph infection called MRSA from dog bites. If left untreated, the infection can spread to your lungs and blood stream and become life threatening.

Rabies can also be spread via dog bites. Furthermore, if you do not receive treatment right away after an attack by a rabid dog, the rabies virus can be fatal.

Other types of bacteria that you can get from dog bites include Capnocytophaga and Pasteurella. However, serious infections from these bacteria are not common.

Reading a Dog’s Demeanor and Protecting Yourself

While dogs can be gentle, beloved companions that provide protection and comfort to their owners, canines that have experienced trauma or that have been mistreated may react in unpredictable ways around other family members and strangers.

If you are worried about getting attacked by a dog, you should learn how to read the demeanor of canines in order to ward off attacks. Dogs attack if they feel under stress, scared or lost. They begin to show signs of aggression including:

  • Barking and snarling
  • Baring teeth
  • Raising ears
  • Tucking the tail

If you sense a dog is in attack mode, do not raise your voice. Back away slowly and do not run.

If the dog does attack and bite, use your arms to deflect the dog away from your face and throat. Try to keep the dog in front of you and look for something to put between you and the canine.

If you fall during the attack, curl yourself into a ball and use your arms to protect your head, neck and torso.

Knowing What to Do After an Attack

Even if you do not feel any pain from what seemed like a minor bite from a dog attack, you should seek medical attention. If the bite breaks the skin, you are at risk for an infection. You can wash a minor wound with soap and water, apply an antibiotic cream and cover it with a bandage before you head to the doctor.

For deep wounds, call 911 for help. If you have a friend or family member with you, ask them for help in contacting a dog bite attorney. You should also contact the local animal control department to report the dog bite.

Many municipalities collect dog bite data to help track rabies and trends in canine attacks. Some animals will be put into quarantine after an attack, and, in severe cases, they will be put to sleep.

Filing a Dog Bite Claim

Do not hesitate to exercise your legal right to sue an irresponsible dog owner after an attack. When you meet with an attorney, make sure to bring detailed notes on the attack that include the time and date of the incident, the breed of dog and what kind of medical treatment you received.

An attorney can explain your rights based on local and state dog bite laws. It is important to file a claim as soon as possible, so you do not miss a deadline for filing a dog bite lawsuit. You may also be able to get compensated for lost income, medical bills and emotional trauma. 

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