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How to Prevent and Treat Dog Bites

How to Prevent and Treat Dog Bites

In the 1976 film, The Pink Panther Strikes Again, Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers) checks into a hotel. As he gets his rheum key, he spies a dog a few feet away. “Does your dog bite?” he asks the proprietor. “No.” he replies. But when the Inspector reaches down to pet the dog, it bites him. “I thought you said your dog does not bite,” he queries. The proprietor replies, “That is not my dog.”

It’s estimated that there are around 4.7 million dog bite incidents in the US annually, many of which are minor. In fact, about 1,000 Americans need emergency care for serious dog bites every day.

To avoid a dog bite, follow the Pink Panther Rules:

  • Don’t approach a dog you don’t know.
  • Always address the dog’s owner first before reaching toward it.
  • Stand sideways and let the dog sniff the back of your hand.
  • If you’re seriously attacked, drop to the ground, curl into a ball, tuck your head into your chest and put your hands and arms over your ears and neck.

If you or someone you’re with is bitten, clean and disinfect the wound thoroughly if the bite’s not too deep or severe. Experts at Penn State Children’s Hospital believe the risk of infection is only five to 15 percent. Rabies are rare, and since most dog bites occur between dogs and people familiar with their owners, it’s usually possible to verify a dog’s vaccination history. For any deep wound or an injury from an un-tagged dog, go to the emergency room.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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