I’ve Been Bitten by a Dog. What Should I Do?

Written By Fam Staff
Medically Reviewed By Dr. Adnan Maqsood


Family Urgent Care is one of the fastest-growing providers of urgent medical care and telehealth. We have 3 locations in the heart of Chicago and Schererville. No appointments are required, and most clinics are open seven days a week, to treat non-life-threatening illnesses and injuries.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, dog bites are responsible for as many as 800,000 hospital visits in the US each year, with around half of the victims being children between 5 and 9. Frightening and painful, dog bites are part of the reason that many people fear dogs, and some people hate certain breeds. While no breed is naturally more likely to bite a person than any other breed, dog bites are a public health concern, and your local animal control agency should be informed if this happens to you. 

Though children are half of dog bite victims, adolescents and adults are also vulnerable to serious injuries that can be inflicted by a dog. If you or a loved one have been severely mauled, call for an ambulance, but if your injury is non-life-threatening, Family Urgent Care is your safe haven for quick and effective treatment. Led by Asrar Sheikh, MD, and Teofilo Vinluan, MD, our staff of compassionate professionals knows the risks of dog bites, how to treat them, and how to help you feel better. 

Why do dogs bite?

Though nearly one million people are hospitalized with dog bites, those are a small portion of the roughly 3.4 million total dog bites that happen in a given year. Many dog bites happen because a dog is afraid or feels threatened. Like many animals, dogs have a “fight or flight” instinct that prevents them from fighting in dangerous situations that they may not survive. However, dogs can also be startled or provoked, or may try to defend something valuable. 

Dog bites are generally preventable, though poorly bred dogs can experience genetic issues that affect their behavior, including elevated levels of aggression. Some experts estimate that a dog’s genetic makeup could account for as much as 70% of a dog’s behavior, with training able to positively affect most dogs, reducing their chance of biting any person.

What do I do if a dog bites me?

Whether you’ve been bitten by your own dog, or someone else’s, the first and most important thing that you need to do is clean the wound with mild soap and warm water, making sure to thoroughly flush the wound with water. Use a clean, soft towel to apply pressure to the injury site to slow any bleeding. Once the bleeding is under control, use an antibiotic topical cream and dress the wound in a sterile bandage.

As soon as you’re able, contact your provider at Family Urgent Care. Despite the painful and scary experience of a dog bite, the risk of infection is high, making it an additional hazard in the timeline of events after being bitten. 

Once we can assist you in our facility, your provider will carefully examine your wound and make recommendations for healing and pain management. Over-the-counter pain medication will alleviate pain for most injuries, but tell your provider if you’re experiencing severe pain from your dog bite injury.

What happens after my dog bite treatment?

After proper treatment, your job is to rest, heal, and watch your wound for signs of infection. If you notice an increase in pain, develop a fever, find that the injury site is swollen and tender to the touch, or if the area is red, you may have an infection. Treating an infection for a dog bite may require a combination of antibiotics, additional wound dressing, and pain killers. 

Follow-up care might be necessary for some dog bite injuries, but always keep your provider in the loop if you find that your symptoms get worse. In certain cases, dog bites are serious enough to require stitches, which may need to be removed after your skin has healed. 

How do I stop this from happening again?

As mentioned, dog bites are largely preventable. A little bit of patience and space will make a difference in the way that a nervous dog will behave around you or a loved one. If you have a dog, make sure that your dog is properly socialized. Attend training classes with every available member in your immediate family, and let your dog meet and enjoy the company of other dogs of different sizes. 

Pay attention to a dog’s behavior. Some dogs aren’t as friendly as other dogs, and won’t respond the way that you would like, even if you offer food to them. Nursing mother dogs are known to be both fearful and protective of their babies. Blind dogs may also be very wary around strangers.

Giving animals the space and respect that they need to feel comfortable is essential to preventing dog bites. Don’t approach dogs at times when their guards are down, for example, when they’re eating, drinking, or when they’re sick or injured. Teach young children to be gentle with smaller dogs, and careful not to hurt or irritate them. Dog bites can happen any time, any place, but we’re ready to assist you. Call one of our offices for an appointment or book online with us today. 

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