Answers to go with Susan Smith

Q. What is the best way to respond to a snarling dog?

A. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention offers clear information on this topic.

I was surprised to read the CDC report that over half of dog-bite injuries occur at home with dogs that are familiar to us.

Having a dog is associated with a higher likelihood of being bitten than not having a dog. As the number of dogs in the home increases, so does the likelihood of being bitten. Adults with two or more dogs in the household are five times more likely to be bitten than those living without dogs.

Here are the CDC’s basic instructions for preventing dog bites:

  • Don’t approach an unfamiliar dog.
  • Don’t run from a dog.
  • Don’t panic or make loud noises.
  • Don’t disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
  • Don’t pet a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first.
  • Don’t encourage your dog to play aggressively.
  • Don’t let small children play with a dog unsupervised.

While it is apparently the case that we are more likely to be bitten by our pets, this person asked what to do when approached by an angry, strange dog.

The CDC offers these recommendations: “Stop! Stay still and be calm. Do not panic or make loud noises. Avoid direct eye contact with the dog. Stand with the side of your body facing the dog. Facing a dog directly can appear aggressive to the dog.

“Keep your body turned partially or completely to the side. Say ‘No’ or ‘Go Home’ in a firm, deep voice. Slowly raise your hands to your neck, with your elbows in. Wait for the dog to pass or slowly back away.

“If the dog attacks you, put your purse, bag, or jacket between you and the dog to protect yourself. If you are knocked down, curl into a ball with your head tucked in and your hands over your ears and neck.

“When you get to a safe place, immediately wash wounds with soap and water. Apply an antibiotic cream. Cover the wound with a clean bandage.

“Because anyone who is bitten by a dog is at risk of getting rabies, consider contacting your local animal control agency or police department to report the incident, especially if you don’t know if the dog has been vaccinated against rabies, or if the dog appears sick or is acting strangely.

“If possible, contact the owner and ensure the animal has a current rabies vaccination. You will need the rabies vaccine license number, name of the veterinarian who administered the vaccine, and the owner’s name, address, and phone number.

“See a healthcare provider if the wound becomes red, painful, warm, or swollen; if you develop a fever; or if the dog that bit you was acting strangely.

“You must get medical attention: if the wound is serious (uncontrolled bleeding, loss of function, extreme pain, muscle or bone exposure, etc.), if the wound becomes red, painful, warm, or swollen; if you develop a fever; if it has been more than five years since your last tetanus shot and the bite is deep.”

It seems to me that you must also get medical attention if you have no way to determine whether or not the dog had rabies.


San Marcos Daily Record

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P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666