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Preventing and managing dog bites

Dog bites are in no condition simply wounds, but are in fact medical emergencies that need to be attended to as soon as possible. Here’s how to prevent and manage dog bites.

Preventing dog bite

  • Never approach an unfamiliar dog.
  • Never run from a dog or scream in the presence of a dog.
  • Be still, ‘like a tree’, when approached by a dog.
  • If knocked down, become ‘like a log’ and using your arms hide your face and ears.
  • Children should never play with a dog without an adult present.
  • Immediately report stray dog or dogs with unusual behaviour.
  • Avoid direct eye contact with a dog.
  • Do not disturb a dog who is eating, sleeping or caring for her puppies.
  • Do not pet a dog without letting him first sniff you.
  • Tell children to report a dog bite to an adult immediately.
  • Educate the children and adults to remain calm when threatened by a dog.
  • If a dog perceives no movement, it will lose interest and go away.

Causes of dog bite

  • The incidence of serious and fatal dog bites has been seen mainly because of:
  • Involvement of the victim in trying to harm or steal the pups of a dog.
  • Involvement of the victim in provoking the dogs by some mischievous activity.
  • General carelessness of the victim, while approaching or handling a dog.
  • Allowing small children to play unsupervised with the pet dogs.

Dangers associated with dog bite

Only 15-20% of dog bite wounds become infected. Crush injuries, puncture wounds and hand wounds are more likely to become infected than scratches or tears. Infection tends to develop within 24-36 hours of the injury. However the main threat of dog bite is risk of acquiring ‘Rabies’, a disease which if develops always ends fatally. Till now there has been no suitable cure found for rabies, only pre/post exposure vaccines have been developed which help to prevent the occurrence of the disease but are of no use once the disease has developed. Other complications include infectious diseases such as osteomyelitis, septic arthritis, tenosynovitis, and septicemia. Most infected dog bite wounds yield polymicrobial organisms. Pasteurella multocida and Staphylococcus aureus are the most common aerobic organisms, occurring in 20-30% percent of infected dog bite wounds.

Some of the medical conditions associated with a high risk of infection after a dog bite include:

  • Chronic disease
  • Chronic edema of the extremity
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Immunosuppression
  • Liver dysfunction
  • Previous mastectomy
  • Prosthetic valve or joint
  • Splenectomy
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus

 

Treatment of dog bite

Treatment with prophylactic antibiotics for three to seven days is appropriate for dog bite wounds, unless the risk of infection is low or the wound is superficial. Amoxicillin-clavulanate potassium is the antibiotic of choice for a dog bite. For patients who are allergic to penicillin, doxycycline is an acceptable alternative, except for children younger than eight years and pregnant women. When compliance is a concern, daily intramuscular injections of ceftriaxone are appropriate.

Whether a person has received pre-exposure vaccination or not, anyone exposed to the rabies virus MUST receive post-exposure treatment.

(Dr F H Dedmari, BVSc & AH, is currently doing master in Veterinary Surgery & Radiology at Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Science & Technology, Kashmir, SKUAST-K).