National Dog Bite Prevention Week is the second full week of April each year. Because of the large number of dog bites reported in the United States every year – more than 4 million people, according to the Centers for Disease Control – it’s important to take this opportunity to educate yourself and your family, especially children, about how to prevent dog bites.
The most important thing to understand is this: ANY dog can bite. This can be hard to believe, as most pet parents would like to think their beloved dogs are harmless. But even the most gentle, friendly, or relaxed dog could bite a person or other animal if they are frightened, stressed, in pain, or overly excited.
Tips to Avoid Being Bitten
- Don’t startle sleeping dogs. A dog that wakes up suddenly could bite out of fear.
- Let dogs eat in peace. Even friendly dogs can become protective of their food or be so focused on it that they startle easily, so give your dog privacy to eat. If you have more than one dog, feed them far enough apart that they will not feel the need to guard their food from their housemate.
- Pay attention to growls. They can be warning signs – “I’m getting frustrated here!” – and need to be heeded.
- Learn your dog’s signs of stress. It’s not always a growl or whine – some dogs yawn, lick their lips, tuck their tails, avoid eye contact, pant, or pace when they’re anxious or fearful. If you notice those behaviors, give your dog some space.
- Avoid roughhousing, pulling on ears and tails, or letting children sit on or ride on the dog. If the dog gets hurt suddenly or becomes overexcited, he could bite.
- Never approach a strange dog without asking the owner first. Some dogs welcome attention from strangers, while others become wary, shy, or protective. Always ask, “May I pet your dog?” and see if the dog comes to you.
What to Do If a Dog Bites You or Your Family Member
- If the dog is not yours, get the owner’s contact information and find out if the dog is up to date on its rabies vaccines. Ask for proof, like a tag or certificate.
- Clean the wound thoroughly.
- Seek medical treatment if necessary.
- According to Virginia state law, all dog bites or scratches must be reported to the authorities. Your doctor should follow the Virginia Department of Health instructions regarding steps to take.
If your dog is bitten by another dog, similar actions are necessary. All bite-related injuries should be examined by a veterinarian, since the risk of infection is high. Your veterinarian will determine the best treatment for your pet.
Remember that if your pet does need emergency attention, The COVE is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.