Dog Bite Treatment

  • Medical Author:
    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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Dog bite facts

  • Dog bites account for more than 90% of all animal bites. 4.5 million dog bites occur each year in the U.S., and more than 27,000 victims require reconstructive surgery.
  • Injuries may involve structures deep beneath the skin including muscles, bones, nerves, and blood vessels.
  • Infections, including tetanus and rabies, need to be considered.
  • Wound cleaning decreases the risk of infection.
  • Skin repair increases the risk of infection, and the decision to suture the skin balances the risk of infection versus the benefit of a better appearing scar.

How many dog bites occur?

Almost 70 million dogs live in the United States, and since many victims of dog bites don't seek medical care or report the attack, it may be that the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s estimate of 4.5 million dog bites each year in the U.S. may be too low. Approximately 900,000 dog bite victims seek emergency medical care at hospitals in the U.S. every year.

Dogs have rounded teeth, and it is the pressure exerted by their jaws that can cause significant damage to the tissues under the skin, including bones, muscles, tendons, blood vessels, and nerves.

About 25,000 victims of dog bites undergo reconstructive surgery each year, and 31 people died from causes related to dog bites in 2013.

Who is at risk for a dog bite?

The risk of being bitten by a dog increases if there is a dog in the home; the more dogs there are, the greater the risk. Men are more frequent victims than women (who are bitten by cats more often).

Children between the ages of 5 and 9 are more likely to be bitten by a dog than other age groups. Children are also more likely to present for medical attention.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/2/2015
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