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Dog Bites 101: What Every Parent Should Know

If you’re a dog person, you consider your canine an important member of your family. But when a dog feels threatened, they may bite. 

Unfortunately, children are often the victims of dog bites. In most cases, these bites come from a dog they know — like the family dog. Not all dog bites require medical attention, but you do need to take care of a dog bite, because they can cause an infection.

At Houston Medical ER in Houston and Spring, Texas, our highly skilled team of emergency room providers specialize in treating animal bites

Here’s what you need to know about dog bites and when you need to bring your child in for care. 

About that dog bite

Any dog ― even your small, snuggly lap dog — can bite. 

Dogs most often bite when they feel scared or threatened. They may also bite when they’re not feeling well. 

No matter the reason, a dog bite is dangerous to people, especially children. Children are the most common victims of dog bites and tend to get more serious injuries. 

A dog bite may break through the skin, causing a jagged puncture wound. The primary concern with any dog bite is infection. 

At-home care for dog bites

If you or your child gets bitten by a dog, it’s important to treat the wound right away. We recommend washing the injury with mild soap and warm water. Be sure to run the water over the wound for 5 to 10 minutes to clear away debris and germs. 

If the wound is bleeding, wrap a clean cloth over the injury and apply pressure to slow down or stop the bleeding. Apply an over-the-counter antibiotic cream if you have any on hand, and wrap the wound in a clean bandage. 

Make an appointment with your child’s primary care provider so they can check the bite and monitor for infection.

When to visit the ER

You can treat a minor dog bite at home, but you should come in for emergency room care if:

  • The bite breaks the skin, especially if the wound is deep
  • The wound continues to bleed after 15 minutes of pressure
  • The bite is on the face, neck, hands, or feet
  • Your child has a weakened immune system
  • The wound looks inflamed, is warm to the touch, or oozes pus
  • Your child has a fever after being bitten

During your ER visit, our medical experts examine your child’s wound, clean it, and close it. Most dog bites require stitches. If we suspect your child has any tissue or bone damage, we perform X-rays. We also run bloodwork to check for infections.

If we think your child is at risk of developing an infection from their dog bite, we prescribe a short course of antibiotics. 

We may also give a tetanus shot. Tetanus is a bacteria found in soil and dust that enters the body through a wound, causing painful muscle spasms. 

If you have concerns about a dog bite, we can help. Call or come to the office most convenient to you so our expert emergency room team can treat the wound. We also offer telehealth appointments.

For any medical procedure, patients respond to treatment differently, hence each patient's results may vary.
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