Once Bitten Twice Shy

– Lesson I learnt after a dog bite

I write this while nursing an injured left hand. Lesson learnt – not every dog has to be patted. Telling you firsthand experience of a dog bite and the right medical care.


My mom calls me the crazy dog lady and that’s because I pet every dog (okay, almost every dog I meet). But last month I got bitten by a St Bernard and things have changed after that. St Bernard as a breed is so docile and lovable; big balls of fur. It is actually hard to believe that they can bite.

The incident

On a hot and humid summer evening I was strolling in the local market and I see a cutesy St. Bernard walking with his caretaker towards me. I couldn’t contain my excitement and asked the helper if I could pet the dog. He said yes and I went close to him. Just when I was about to carefully pet him on his back, he grabbed my forearm. All this happened in a matter of few minutes.

I didn’t even get reaction time and just pulled my arm back. But it was too late. He had clenched his teeth and I was bleeding profusely.

Immediate first aid

Getting the right first aid can make a huge difference. The incident happened near our vet’s clinic and in sheer panic and tension, the first thing we did was straightaway go to the vet clinic.

They thoroughly washed the wound and let the blood flow, yes, that’s important. Don’t worry and let the wound bleed. This would only help to cleanse the infection and germs. Unless the wound is around your neck, or the blood is gushing out forcefully, let it flow for about 5 minutes. Once the blood flow minimizes, wash the wound with water and disinfectant soap.

Dog bite treatment

After a few minutes I went to a hospital nearby. The doctor examined the wound, which was quite deep. Luckily no stitches! I was given Tetanus injection and my first shot of Anti-Rabies was also given.

There was a time when one had to get 14 anti-rabies shots. But nowadays the person receives 5 intramuscular doses. One dose each on –

  • Day 0 (day of the dog bite)
  • Day 3
  • Day 7
  • Day 14
  • Day 28

Make sure you take all the doses and don’t miss any. Depending upon the severity of the bite, your doctor may also prescribe some painkillers, antibiotics, zinc tablets for faster healing, and an ointment to apply on the wound.

Caring for dog bite wound at home

Here are some things that you can do to take care of the wound at home.

  • Place a clean towel over the wound to stop bleeding.
  • Keep the wound elevated to avoid bleeding.
  • Carefully wash the wound with a disinfectant soap and water every day.
  • Apply antibiotic ointment prescribed by your doctor to avoid infection.
  • It is advised not to cover the wound. But in case the wound is too deep, your doctor might suggest a sterile bandage.
  • Watch out for signs of infection – fever, increased redness, and swelling.

It pained a lot and even though the wound has healed, the scars are still there. Ask your doctor to recommend a scar treatment ointment.

Trust me as I say this, I was in denial that a dog cannot bite me. I am a pet parent for the last 8 years and have met so many dogs. But this incident has shaken my belief. Not all dogs are friendly and we need to understand that.

Probably he was agitated due to the heat, was unwell, or had behavior issues. It would be wrong to categorise the entire breed. Like we humans have varying personality, the same goes for dogs as well – friendly, shy, and outgoing, they’re all kinds.

If you’re a dog lover and cannot control your excitement on seeing a pooch, please take lessons from this situation. Try and avoid meeting pets walking with their helpers, because they hardly know about the dog’s behavior and it can lead to adverse situations.

If it is a stray whom you want to pat, be very careful. A lot of stray dog tend to growl, snap and bite. Show oodles of love and affection. Win their hearts with a packet of biscuits. You must understand that they long for companionship and warmth. I get that feeling of excitement when you want to meet a new dog, but better safe than sorry.

Here’s how to meet a new dog

  • Ask the pet parent about the dog’s temperament first and pet only the friendly ones.
  • Encourage the dog to come to you and sniff you to make it feel comfortable.
  • Never pat on the head. As soon as you’ll extend your hand, the dog would feel it is to attack them. Slowly pat on their back or for small breeds you can rub under their chin also.
  • Do not stare into the eyes of the dog. It startles them and increases the chances of the dog growling or snapping at you.
  • Don’t pat a dog who doesn’t initiate contact with you. Even the slightest hint of contact like tail wagging or eye contact should be considered a sign for petting.