Dog Bites: How You Can Prevent Getting Bitten

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Four Fabulous Ways to Get Bitten By a Dog

Getting a Dog Bite is VERY Scary!!

Dog bites can be scary and painful, and can cause major damage. No one in their right mind wants to be bitten! But as a canine behavior specialist who also observes human behavior, I’ve seen people who, unfortunately, seem to be in pursuit of that goal. And so, if you’re in the market for sporting some impressive teeth marks, allow me to share with you a few strategies that might well result in a bite.

Dog Bites: ‘When a dog growls at you, keep right on doing what you’re doing.’

PAY ATTENTION

A growl is a dog’s early warning system. It broadcasts, Stay back. If you push me, violence may follow! I would much rather be around a dog who growls to share his feelings of discomfort than one who has been punished for growling. The latter are often the ones who bite without warning. At the moment a dog growls, the wisest course of action is to stop what you’re doing, whether advancing toward or reaching toward the dog, trying to brush, clip nails, or whatever. Diffuse the situation until everyone is calmer. Then, if it’s your own dog, address the underlying issue with the help of a professional if needed.

Dog Bites: ‘Show dogs affection by kissing them on top of the head and giving a nice, tight hug!

DOGS PREFER JUST A LITTLE PETTING

Okay, before you say it, yes, you may be able to do those things with your own dog. Perhaps your dog even enjoys them. But there are many who will not appreciate either of those things, and may bite to convey their distress. Hugging signifies affection to humans, but to dogs, it’s a form of restraint. Ask any vet tech how much dogs love being restrained. It’s true that there are some dogs who are fine with being hugged, but many more simply tolerate it; and some won’t. When being hugged, a dog may show subtle stress signals such as lip licking, turning away of the head and or gaze, or yawning. If those signals are not heeded, the dog may proceed to growling or even biting without warning.

As far as kissing a dog on top of the head, I have known of more than a few children and even some adults who have been bitten in the face for doing it. Dogs are naturally nervous about things descending from overhead. No doubt you’ve seen dogs who actually cringe when someone reaches to pet them with a palm down over the head. Approach dogs by petting the chest or other safe area first, and even better, let them approach you. As far as kissing, only put your face close enough to kiss a dog you know very, very well.

Dog Bites: ‘Take your dog’s food away regularly. After all, you’re the one in charge!

DON’T CREATE RESOURCE GUARDING

Creating a resource guarding issue really isn’t that difficult. Here’s an example that involves my very favorite food; pizza. Imagine that I’m enjoying my personal slice of cheese heaven. You approach and take it from me. Hmm. I’m not very happy about that! You proceed to do this often when I have a slice of pizza in my possession. Very quickly, I learn that you approaching me means I am going to lose the thing that is so valuable to me. So, the next time I saw you coming, I might say, “Hands off the cheese, please!” If you kept moving toward me, I’d say it again in a stronger tone. If you still didn’t back off, things might get ugly! You get the point. Getting back to your dog, giving him a super tasty bone or other chew item and then trying to prove you’re in charge by taking it away is a great way to create a resource guarding issue where there might never have been one. And going back to point one, continuing to push it when he warns you is also a great way to get bitten.

Dog Bites: ‘Teach your dog that you’re the boss by rolling them on their back or giving them harsh physical corrections.

USE POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT

Ooh. This one really gets my hackles up! Yes, you’re most likely bigger and stronger than your dog. That doesn’t give you the right to treat them roughly. Violence begets violence, and if you’re doling out harsh physical corrections or trying to “dominate” your dog in a way that frightens them, you really can’t blame them for using the tools at their disposal—their teeth—to defend themselves. And why use force anyway? Love, respect, and cooperation foster trust and get much better results. Trainers of exotic animals work with huge, strong animals who could injure or even kill a human. Have you ever seen someone jerk a dolphin around on a choke chain, or try to wrestle a bear into submission? I didn’t think so. Again, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. I’ve worked with bad dog temperaments for many years and all my body parts are still intact. I certainly wasn’t trying to show them who was boss. It was a matter of cooperation, not coercion. Treat your dog with respect and they’ll do the same.

Bite from A Dog to Another Dog: What to Do

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Has your canine companion ever suffered an attack of a dog bite?

It’s something every owner dreads. You’re out for a walk when your well-behaved dog is attacked by another dog.

A dog bite can be deceptively nasty. Even a simple puncture wound can have unfortunate complications. These include internal injuries, infection, abscess formation and soft tissue dieback.

Good first-aid treatment for a dog bite makes a big difference on the outcome.

However, a vet check is strongly advisable because the injuries often go beyond skin deep.

How to Treat a Dog Bite

#1: Keep yourself safe from attack

Do not try to separate fighting dogs with your hands or arms. You will get bitten. Instead, place an object between them, such as a chair. Or distract the aggressor by throwing water over him.

Immediately after a dog bite, your fur-friend will be fearful, shaken and in pain. This can cause even a placid dog to become aggressive.

If necessary, improvise a muzzle using a tie wrapped around the dog’s snout.

Try this if no tie, place your coat over the dog’s body and head as you gently pick him up.

This provides you with some protection should the dog turn and snap.

#2: Assess the Injuries

A superficial dog bite, such as the tail, is painful but unlikely to be life-threatening. You have the option to give first aid at home, and then seek a vet check. (We’ll discuss more on that in the next section.)

However, a deep dog bite to the windpipe (throat area), chest or abdomen is very serious.

Ask yourself:

  • How deep is the dog bite? Could it have entered a body cavity, such as the chest or stomach?
  • Was the dog physically shaken, like a rag doll, during the attack?
  • Does your dog seem weak, confused or disorientated?
  • Is he having breathing difficulties?
  • Is he bleeding heavily?

Contact your veterinarian to ask if it is OK to try to clean the surface area of the dog bite before you head to the vet’s office.

If the veterinarian says it’s OK, apply pressure with a clean cotton pad to a bleeding wound and keep the dog warm on your way, if possible.

But even while cleaning the wounds, there is still a strong possibility that there will be deeper injuries.

#3: First Aid for the Walking Wounded

If the bite is a genuine nip and not deeply penetrating, then clean the wound at home. This reduces the risk of infection developing. If the dog will let you, gently trim the fur back from the wound edges. This allows you to see more clearly the extent of the injury.

Then clean and bathe the wound with an appropriate solution such as saline solution or weak disinfectant. Saline solution is ideal, such as the kind used for cleaning contact lenses. Or, make up a salt water solution: add a teaspoon of salt to one pint of a cool boiled water and stir.

Saline solution helps wash away bacteria and doesn’t damage the dog’s delicate soft tissue.

Alternatively, use a weak solution of a pet-safe disinfectant such as Savlon.

Here is a step-by-step list of how to clean the wound at home.

#4: Monitor the Wound

If there’s minimal chance of getting to the clinic soon, keep a close eye on the injury.

Look for:

  • Swelling under or around the area of the bite
  • A discharge that’s bloody or purulent
  • Pain around the area

These are all signs of infection or the skin dying back.

Getting a dog in this state to a veterinarian must then become top priority.

How to Treat a Dog Bite on a Dog

A dog bite is usually more than skin deep, with a high risk of complications. When treated correctly at the beginning, this can reduce the risk of costly complications.

For example, let’s say the attacking dog picked your dog up by the scruff and shook him. The only visible injuries are two deep puncture wounds. The dog is upset but isn’t bleeding. You bathe the wounds but decide a vet visit isn’t necessary. Right?

Wrong!

Shaking causes massive shearing forces that detach the skin from the underlying muscle. This creates a large dead space or cavity. Seepage from the damaged tissue then fills the void to create a large abscess or seroma.

Odds are that the attacker’s teeth injected bacteria into this space, which makes for a monster-sized abscess.

In a worst-case scenario, this could cause the skin to die back and a skin graft may be necessary to close the large open wound.

Dog Bite Treatment Protocol at the Vet

Let’s run with the example of the shaken dog.

The vet may need to sedate the dog to explore the bite wounds and see how deep the puncture wounds are. This allows the vet to flush the dead space clean and place a drain if required.

Then antibiotics and further flushing can prevent a serious (and costly) complication.

Complications and Dog Bite Treatment

It’s natural to focus on the skin wound you can see. But in more serious attacks, this is the least of the dog’s worries.

For example, a bite to the throat can puncture the windpipe or damage the larynx. This causes breathing difficulties that need immediate attention.

Likewise, a bite across the chest can let air into the chest cavity, causing the lungs to collapse. This is known as pneumothorax and is a genuine emergency.

If you suspect a penetrating bite to the chest, try to seal the hole by bandaging around the chest. Then get straight to the vet.

Sadly, bites to the belly can be just as serious. If a tooth penetrates the gut, this can damage the intestine and cause gut contents to leak into the belly. Again, this requires immediate surgical management. The vet needs to give the dog a general anesthetic, open the abdomen, remove devitalized pieces of bowel and flush the belly to get rid of contamination.

Dog Bite Wounds – The Importance Of Watching For Shock

And last but by no means least is the risk of shock.

A dog that’s been badly frightened or injured can easily go into shock. This causes the circulation to shut down and can be life-threatening.

Signs of shock include:

  • Cold feeling paws or extremities
  • Pale membranes in the mouth
  • Weakness and disorientation
  • Mental confusion

Keep the dog warm by wrapping him in a coat or blanket. Then get to the vet clinic.

The vet will give supportive care such as intravenous fluids to boost blood pressure, pain relief and drugs to boost the circulation.

Dog Bites

A dog bite is a scary experience for both dog and owner.

If your dog is attacked, keep calm but also seek help.

It’s better to visit the vet and have a wasted trip than miss an important opportunity to catch a complication before it becomes serious.

Has Your Dog Been Bitten?

Share your story if you’d like to, and find other dog owners who have been through the same thing, comment below.