Our heart melts when we see dog photos. Every time we see a dog being taken for a walk, we feel the urge to pet it or give it a belly rub. Thousands of years of conditioning and the history of dogs living with humans have made us adore these furry creatures. And there are so many instances of dogs sacrificing their lives to save their humans. We see them in rescue missions, assisting differently-abled people, helping with therapy, and going to war alongside humans. We know from our core that dogs are our best friends. And they are indeed angelic animals and we certainly don’t deserve them. But sometimes dogs too can go feral. Dogs are descended from predators and they have powerful jaws and sharp canines. If they bite, things can get nasty. And you can never be too careful. The small harmless-looking dog you love petting when you go out for a walk could nip you. A dog may jump the fence and pounce on you when you are passing by. According to The Globe and Mail, 500,000 dog bites are reported every year in Canada. You should know exactly what to do if a dog bites you for the sake of your own health.
Why do dogs bite?Usually, dogs are extremely patient, friendly, and gentle. They get on very well with humans and think of them as families. They are either affable or indifferent to strangers. And once introduced, they can be friends with any human. So why are dog bites on the rise? The friendly playful nature of dogs is a result of training. Raising a puppy to be a good dog is a challenging task and requires great skill and knowledge of dog nature. Most people get it right. A mix of discipline, training, treats, and love will make a friendly dog out of even the most stubborn breeds. Right from their puppyhood, dogs have a habit of biting, albeit playfully. But this instinct needs to be curbed very early on or the dog could grow thinking that baring its teeth and biting is acceptable. Dogs also need to socialize so that they do not consider every random stranger or dog as a threat. Many people do not invest the time and effort to raise their puppies the right way. Some people are downright cruel and withhold food, love, and play from their dogs. Such dogs grow up to be either depressed or aggressive. Biting is also a reaction. When dogs are stressed or scared, they can bite. Children often torment dogs, throw things at them, yank on their tails, and simply irritate them. Some dogs lash out and that is why so many children get bitten every year. People can startle a dog by waking it suddenly or approaching it from behind when it is unwary. This is always a bad idea as being taken unawares can induce a dog to bite. Dogs may also bite if they think their territory is under attack (an old predatorial instinct). If a dog has given birth and she thinks her puppies are in danger, she can bite. Very young dogs nip and bite in play. They still have very little idea how much force to use while nipping and a round of vigorous tug-of-war or wrestling with its human can trigger too much excitement and it might bite harder than it wanted. If a dog is ill or injured, it becomes irritable and if someone intrudes into its personal space, the dog can bite. Even if it is your dog when it is sick or wants to be left alone do not cuddle it too much. Dogs that are not spayed or neutered are more prone to biting. These procedures make dogs less aggressive and less likely to pick a fight with humans or other dogs. If two dogs are fighting and you step in to break up the fight, both dogs will see you as a threat and may bite you.
What should you do if you are bitten?Unwittingly, you may provoke a dog. And you may be bitten. Here is what you must do-
- Fight off the dog with your umbrella, bag, a branch, anything it takes to scare the dog away or you can call for help.
- If the wound is bleeding, staunch the flow with a clean handkerchief.
- Go home right away and clean the wound of dog saliva, dirt, and debris under running water with plenty of soap.
- Examine the wound, if it is a superficial wound, apply antiseptic powder or lotion and bandage it. Change the bandaging every day and observe how well the wound is healing. Antibiotic ointment or powder will prevent an infection from setting in.
- If the wound doesn’t stop bleeding within the hour, go to the hospital immediately because you need a few stitches to patch up the wound. You may also need antibiotics injections or intravenous antibiotics.
- Whether your wound is insignificant or severe, you have to talk to your doctor. The doctor will take a look at the wound. Even if the skin was barely broken, your doctor may see signs of infection and prescribe medicines accordingly.
- Do you know if the dog was vaccinated? If you don’t, your doctor will advise you on whether you need post-exposure prophylaxis to prevent rabies. If you are familiar with the dog’s owner, enquire if the dog has been administered all the necessary vaccines. You might also need an anti-tetanus booster shot if your vaccination schedule isn’t up to date.