Treating Dog Bites

About 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year, and approximately 885,000 of those people sustain wounds severe enough to require the attention of a medical professional. Dog bites break the skin in most cases, so it is important to treat the dog bite immediately to prevent blood loss and infection. If the wound is severe or is to a sensitive area like the head or neck, the patient should seek medical treatment as soon as possible.

Immediate Treatment for Dog Bites

In a dog attack situation, the most immediate concern is to take the patient out of harm’s way and secure the dog so that more damage is not done. Then the injury must be assessed. If there is bleeding, the patient should stop the bleeding as soon as possible by covering the wound and applying pressure. If bleeding is severe, the wound should be elevated above the rest of the body, if possible.

Treating Dog Bites at Home

Treating dog bites should involve cleaning with soap and water. The bite should be covered with a bandage to prevent infection. If the wound is severe or if the dog is unknown, the patient should seek medical treatment. If the wound is minor and the dog has been vaccinated for rabies, applying antibiotic ointment can be helpful in healing, and may be all that is necessary.

Treating Dog Bites at a Medical Facility

When a patient is taken to a medical facility to treat a dog bite injury, the medical professionals must assess the injury and decide upon the best course of action before treating dog bites. Dogs’ jaws exert a lot of force, and in some cases, bones may be broken or crushed, requiring splints, casts, or even surgery. In other cases, the dog is unknown or the wound is otherwise at high risk for infection, so antibiotics must be given for treating dog bites.

Stitches to Repair Injury

While stitches would commonly be used to close a larger wound, physicians may opt not to use or to postpone stitching a dog bite injury because of the greater risk of infection. If the potential risk to the patient from not closing the dog bite wound is greater than the risk of infection, physicians may have to weigh the risks and benefits. In cases where the wound is severe enough to still benefit from stitches after a few days, doctors may stitch the wound after the risk of infection has passed.

Surgery for Dog Bite

Surgery may be required for treating dog bites if the dog bite has damaged bone, tendons, or has caused severe damage to the skin, especially on the face, head, or neck. Reconstructive surgery can sometimes be done to help correct unsightly scars after a dog bite injury. This can help to ease trauma from the dog attack incident, in some cases.




“Dog Bites.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25 Oct 2013. Web. 17 Jan 2014. <>.

“Dog Bite Prevention.” ASPCA. ASPCA, n.d. Web. 17 Jan 2014. <>.

“Medically Attended Dog Bites.” National Canine Research Council. National Canine Research Council, 26 Nov 2013. Web. 17 Jan 2014. <>.