what to do when bitten by dog

Have you ever heard someone mention how their sweet, loving, adorable little Chihuahua attacked the mailman, biting at his heels? It was most probably told in a joking manner, because the idea of such a tiny little dog ever seriously causing anyone any damage is laughable, isn’t it?

Actually, no! It is not a laughing matter at all.

The fact of the matter is that any dog can bite, no matter how big or small, cute, fluffy, cuddly, or sweet it is. It is a dog, it has teeth, and it can bite. That is the bottom line.

Why do dogs bite people?

Interestingly enough, most dog bites happen at home, and there are a number of reasons for this. But first, let us look at the general reasons why dogs bite before discussing why children are the usual victims.

Dogs bite because…

They are trying to show their dominance

If you have purchased a male puppy that is part of a breed known for their dominant behavior, make sure that you take him for obedience training from an early age. In addition, you as the owner need to establish yourself as the alpha right from the start.

How do you stop this from happening?

You may quite innocently try to push him off the couch or just step over him where he is laying in a doorway. The next moment you a bark and a bite follow. He is not a bad dog. He is just trying to show he is the alpha, and this is how he does it in nature.

There are certain breeds of dogs that are dominant in nature. These include Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Rottweilers, and Chow Chows, to name but a few. Unneutered males are usually the culprits.


Your dog might feel that there is a threat to him, you, or his territory.


At times, dogs find themselves in a fearful situation, such as when visiting the veterinarian. He does not know where he is, or what to expect, as the situation is unfamiliar.

Why are children at risk?

Children, more often than not, are the victims of dog bites. At the same time, it is not usually the dog’s fault, but the result of different factors. This includes:

  • A small child is running or making a noise near a dog. His natural prey instincts awake.
  • He might bite a child by accident when the child offers him a toy or some food.
  • A bitch may bite a child if she thinks her puppies are threatened.
  • A child may tease the dog.
  • The dog may be old, injured, or ill. He just wants to be left alone.
  • The child and dog are playing and the dog becomes overly excited, biting the child by accident.
  • Some dogs are natural herders. The child may get a nip while the dog practices his herding instincts.
  • A child might accidentally have hurt the dog or startled him.

angry dog

The different kinds of dog bites

You actually get different categories of dog bites. Some are not as serious as others are, but all need attention, as does the reason for the bite.

  • The snap

The snap is when a dog bites at you but does not actually touch you. You may think you were too fast for the dog but you are seriously mistaken. He did not touch you physically because he did not want to. Instead, he was warning you to stop doing whatever you were doing. Obviously, he did not like it.

A near bite is when the skin is touched or grazed. It could even be a ‘scratch’ where the skin is slightly broken.

  • A shallow puncture

This is where his teeth have broken through the skin, although they do not sink in all the way.

  • Multiple bites

These are shallow punctures with multiple bite marks.

  • Deep bite

The dog bites down with force and latches on. It is difficult to get him to let go.

  • Multiple deep bites 

This is a full-blown attack. He causes a lot of damage to his victim and the result is possible death. This kind of attack, if ending in death, could have the dog eating the flesh of his victim.

What do I do if a dog bites me?

It would, in all honesty, depend on the severity of the wound.


  • If the skin is not punctured, or there is only a light abrasion, medical treatment may not be necessary.
  • In this instance, clean the area with an antiseptic and keep an eye out for any redness, swelling, or possible infection.
  • If you notice any of the above, seek medical attention immediately.

Minor bites

  • In the case of a minor dog bite, clean the wound by letting warm water run over it for a while until you are sure it is thoroughly clean.
  • Encourage the wound to bleed, as this allows any dirt or bacteria present to drain out of it.
  • Clean the wound with an antiseptic and apply a bandage.
  • Take painkillers that reduce inflammation.
  • Seek medical attention as antibiotics, tetanus, or rabies shots are the usual course of action.

Deep bites and /or attacks

If attacked by a dog and the bite wounds are severe, stop the bleeding by putting pressure on the affected areas and take the victim to the nearest emergency room. Deep puncture marks and tears sometimes puncture major arteries. Specialized medical attention is often necessary.

puppies biting

Why is medical treatment necessary?

Large or deep wounds may need an operation to repair the damage. Usually, wounds inflicted by dogs are not stitched up immediately because of the risk of infection. Doctors usually wait a few days to rule out infection before stitching.

Signs of infection

  • You have no energy/are constantly tired.
  • You are feverish and possibly have a headache.
  • Fluid/puss drains out of the area.
  • The pain worsens.
  • The area reddens and swells.
  • The wound feels warm/hot


It is quite normal for a doctor to prescribe a round of antibiotics in order to fight infection. If the dog is unknown to you, a rabies shot is usually the norm. This is particularly important where the dog attacked without reason or if he is a stray and you live in an area with rabies incidents.

Most doctors will give you a tetanus shot. Tetanus is a life-threatening condition, resulting in a painful death.

Always seek treatment in the following instances

No matter the severity of the bite, always seek medical treatment if bitten in the face, on the hands, feet, or genitals. The skin in these areas is very thin and easily infected.

In conclusion

The reasons why dogs bite are many. Most of the time, the dog feels threatened, is scared, or thinks it is protecting you or your property. The onus is on you, as a dog owner, to ensure a properly socialized dog with his specific needs taken seen to. At the end of the day, a dog is man’s best friend. Teaching him is your duty.

If, however, your dog should bite someone, or heaven forbid, he should bite you, take immediate care of the wound. Do not allow it to be infected. Clean it if you can, and where severe, take the victim to an emergency room immediately.

Before you go, have a look at this informative video:

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