Straight, No Chaser: Who Let The Dogs Out? Animal Bites

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Human Shark Week wouldn’t be complete without reviewing something getting bitten.

Bow-Wow Ows

Dogs bite almost 5 million people yearly, resulting in 800,000 visits to a healthcare provider. Injuries are highest for kids between ages 5-9.

Most dog bites are to the upper extremities (imagine yourself reaching out, petting or slapping a dog), but in kids most injuries are to the head and neck (they’re smaller). Here’s some tips to avoid getting bitten.

  • If you’re considering bringing a dog into your family, remember that dogs or dog breeds with histories of aggression are inappropriate in households with children (I’m talking to you, pit bull owner.). Also, spend time with a dog before committing. If your kids are afraid of any individual dog, hold off. That fear may create cues the dog will pick up on and create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Spaying/neutering a dog actually reduces aggressive tenderness (no puns necessary).
  • Once you’ve acquired a pet dog, please never leave infants or young children alone with the dog. Train your dogs, focusing on submissive behaviors. Do not wrestle or otherwise become overly aggressive with your dog. If your dog develops aggressive tendencies, either get better training, or remove the pet from the household before it’s too late. Don’t disturb your pet if sleeping, eating or caring for puppies. Also avoid staring down your or any dog.
  • Do not approach an unfamiliar dog.
  • Regarding dogs you don’t know: Don’t pet any new dog without allowing it to see your hand and smell you beforehand. Do not run away screaming from a dog and scream; in fact, if you’re approached by an unfamiliar dog, your best move is to remain motionless. If you trip or fall over, roll into a ball and lie still.

Mee-Ow Ows

In general, cat bites and scratches are much worse than dog bites. Cat bites and scratches are more of the puncture wound variety, seeding and walling off very infectious bacteria deep inside of you, which then grow and cause infections. Dog bites are more of the ripping, tearing variety, which poses different problems, but they aren’t as dangerous from an infectious disease standpoint. Cat bites cause skin and blood infections. You’ll know this by warmth, redness, pain, and pus from the wound site. Fever may also be present if the infection is severe enough, and yes, cat bites can be fatal if untreated. You may have heard of ‘cat-scratch fever’. It’s a real phenomenon.

All bite wounds should immediately be washed under high pressure running water but you want to avoid any scrubbing. Pressure to bleeding wounds is important. Time is also important. Both cat and dog bites need to get evaluated. Expect to receive antibiotics in the vast majority of cases. Some bites will require stitches; others will not. That’s a decision for the medical professionals. Treatment may include tetanus and rabies vaccines.

Get in and be seen, especially with cat bites/scratches, which can cause loss of life and limb if not dealt with rapidly and effectively.

By the way, since this is my blog, I’ll just say stop it with letting your dogs lick you and kiss you in the mouth. That’s just nasty (and that’s medically speaking). Don’t you know where their mouths have been?

The Big Yow Wow! Ow

Shark bites are the things of legends, thanks to movies like Jaws and The Deep Blue Sea, which gives the impression that sharks are serial human killers. In fact, there are about 100 shark attacks worldwide yearly, with about 15-20% of attacks being fatal. I doubt that most Straight, No Chaser readers will be shark bait anytime soon, but the first thing I will mention that’s important to know is unlike other attacks by potential predators, playing possum doesn’t work with sharks. Fight back and fight dirty, attacking the eyes and gills. Apparently, sharks like easy food. In case you’ve ever wondered, sharks aren’t biting you because they’re hungry but because they’re curious. They don’t encounter humans often and similar to how a baby puts about anything in its mouth, sharks will take an ‘exploratory bite’. The typical human who swims frequently enough to be in shark infested waters isn’t obese enough to keep sharks’ interest and be a focus of their diets, particularly with so many other options. The other curiosity about sharks is after that first nibble, they tend to back off and wait for prey to die before returning for the kill. They don’t seem to like fighting wounded and aggressive victims. Rather lazy, I’d say.

The real danger in shark bites is the amputation. Single bites of arms and leg can cause enough blood loss and subsequent infection to kill you, just like any other amputation. Obviously a bite to your skull, chest or abdomen can kill instantly. Treatment primarily involves aggressive fluid resuscitation and other life-supportive measures, along with assessment of infection risk with antibiotics as necessary.

The Most Dangerous Animal of Them All

I’ll blog on human bites as a separate topic; it’s that frequent and important. For now, understanding that the human mouth is especially dirty and dangerous should hold you over. In the meantime, pay attention to your household pets and use the tips mentioned to avoid infection.

4 Comments

Filed under Health Prevention, Infectious Disease, Medical Treatment, Skin/Dermatology, Trauma

4 responses to “Straight, No Chaser: Who Let The Dogs Out? Animal Bites

  1. “If you’re considering bringing a dog into your family, remember that dogs or dog breeds with histories of aggression are inappropriate in households with children (I’m talking to you, pit bull owner.)”
    I think you may have meant “Cocker Spaniel”, not Pit Bull? Seeing how, in a controlled study, it was shown that Cocker Spaniels are much more likely to bite you than a Pit Bull is. In fact, those “aggressive” Pit Bulls passed temperament testing at a higher rate than the average for all dog breeds.

    “Don’t pet any new dog without allowing it to see your hand and smell you beforehand.”
    Reaching your arm out towards a strange dog is dangerous and threatening to the animal, and can easily result in a bite. A dogs sense of smell is about 50 times stronger than ours, they can smell you just fine from many feet away.

    • Thank you, That Girl With Border Collies. Great information. As the proud owner of a pair of Cocker Spaniels for twelve years, I can attest to their Napoleon-like complex. The greater point I’d like to make is I see victims of all makes and models in the ER as recipients of dog bites. If and when your family picks a dog, take it as a serious endeavor and work with experts to learn which breeds and individual animals won’t be as big of a threat. Sounds like That Girl With Border Collies would be an excellent resource!

  2. That certainly is a good point. I always advocate going for an adult rescue dog instead of a puppy if you have children. A reputable rescue organization, such as the one I work with, will assess each dogs behavior and make a knowledgeable decision as to whether the dog would be appropriate for a family with children. (Though, I would not recommend Border Collies for a family with children)

    Another thing to remember, when it comes to the “official” dog bite statistics, is that they certainly are not complete. I have known many people who have been bitten by small dogs – my mom was attacked by a Schipperke and it left a huge bruise, larger than her hand, that took a very long time to go away. I have been bitten by foster dogs, small dogs, but never by a Pit Bull. People are not likely to report an attack by a small dog, because even though they were just bit, they generally still view the animal as “harmless” because of it’s small size.
    Meanwhile, if someone is attacked by a large-breed dog, they are probably more likely to fear for the safety of themselves and others, and will file a report.
    There’s also the fact that so many dogs are called “Pit Bulls” when they really aren’t. Take a look at this:
    http://www.pitbullsontheweb.com/petbull/findpit.html

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