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What to do if an animal nips or bites you

September 24, 2018

“What a dog I got, his favorite bone is in my arm.” Rodney Dangerfield

Most of us love our pets. In addition, most of our pets love us. However, sometimes that still does not prevent a nip or a scratch from our furry friends. These bites and scratches can be nothing at first but quickly develop into life threatening illnesses. I am assuming that your pets are vaccinated against Rabies, so I am not addressing that -- this is more about bacteria. Knowing what to do is key.

Kids are the most common recipients of dog bites. Men are more commonly bitten by dogs while women are more commonly bitten by cats. Pet bites result in approximately 334,000 emergency room visits a year. It is estimated that many of these bites are dealt with at home so it is hard to get the numbers on it.

Many times, if you go to Urgent care, the ER or even your personal Doctor for a bite, they will give you a tetanus booster. Unless the wound is serious, they will not suture it. With any bite or scratch the wound needs to air heal. Bacteria can be deep in the wound and if it is sutured, can be trapped in there and fester making a simple cut into a grave situation. So expect it to be cleaned out and band aided.

If you are treating it at home, wash out the wound with soap and water for at least five minutes. Do not scrub; just let the soap and water flow freely into the wound. Dry it and then apply antiseptic lotion or cream. Cover it with a clean bandage. Watch for signs of infection. At the first sign of infection, contact your healthcare provider, Urgent Care or the ER.

Signs of infection commonly are: redness, pain, swelling and inflammation around the wound. Other symptoms to look for could be pus or fluid oozing from the wound, red streaks near the wound, fever or chills, fatigue and breathing difficulties. Just because you cannot see something wrong does not mean nothing is wrong.

I know that the biggest issue people have with reporting a bite is Animal Control. People fear that we are going to take their pet or worse put it down. By State statute, we have to investigate all bites but fear not as we attempt to work with the owner. Most of the time if the animal is licensed and current on its rabies vaccine it can be home quarantined which saves the owner money. By state law, animals that bite a human have to be quarantined and a home version is up to the Animal Control authority of that jurisdiction.

In some situations, the animal may need to be quarantined at a vet clinic. The other issue people have with having to report dog bites is Animal Control needs to investigate why the animal bit the human. In many cases, we have found that the attack was provoked so we do nothing about it. Things happen and we understand that. Animals can have bad days just like humans and we want to know everything that led up to that attack to find the real reason.

There are some cases where the dog is deemed potentially dangerous or dangerous. One such case was when a dog bit down on its owner’s foot. The bite had such force that it broke a bone and tore a 2-inch hole in the top of the owner’s foot. Later while the dog was in quarantine, it tried to attack a vet tech. Animal Control deemed it dangerous and the owner appealed it. Owners can appeal which sends it to a committee hearing. They hear from Animal Control and the owner and make the decision based on what occurred.

Animal Control keeps statistics on all reported bites for the city of Columbus. With these stats, we can look back and see which breed seems to bite more people. If bites are not recorded then we cannot get a proper database to go off. Currently 11 shorthair cats have bitten people, followed by eight unknown dogs then seven mixed breeds. Surprisingly there have been three Chihuahua attacks and only two Pitbull bites. Of all the animal attacks in Columbus, 20 have been from bats with one of those being positive for rabies.

Please do not fear Animal Control. We are here for your safety and for your pet’s safety. We understand that they are your loved ones and take that into consideration.

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