What To Do If You Get Bit by a Strange Dog

Disclaimer: If you’ve stumbled upon this post because you got bit by a strange dog and are now Googling what to do, here’s your advice: get off the internet and seek help from a medical professional. Seriously. I take no liability for you.

If you recall, on Monday I wrote about how my intercepting of a bit of a tussle in the off-leash got me bit by someone else’s dog. If you’d like to read the full story, click here.

Suffice it to say, doing so should come with a don’t try this at home, kids warning. Even if you go in as an unbiased arbitrator, you can easily find yourself on the pointy end of 42 teeth. I was a completely biased arbitrator and I sure did.

That’s not to say I would go back in time and not intercept the dogs – I still would. But there are risks.

Anything can happen at the off-leash park

Anything can happen at the off-leash park

So say you do get bit by a dog you don’t know – then what?

1. Exchange information

Step one and I already failed. Yep, after separating the dogs and enduring some awkward small talk, I got the heck out of there. To be honest, I knew I got bit but I didn’t know I had any injury myself. I knew Moses was fine, so we left. It wasn’t until we finished our walk and got home that I discovered my own injury.

But what you should really do is get some information about the owner and the dog. Is the dog a local? It he up to date on vaccinations? Get a name and phone number.

You should also give some information yourself. I didn’t do this either. I actually have no idea if those guys knew I got bit, but I should’ve (calmly) told them. They need to know what their dog might do in the heat of the moment and mitigate accordingly (training, no more off-leash, a muzzle, whatever’s right for the dog).

2. Clean up

Because the dog didn’t puncture my jacket, I didn’t think he’d puncture my skin. He did.

A scratch and a lovely yellow bruise - not exactly a big deal. (That's Emma photobombing.)

A scratch and a lovely yellow bruise – not exactly a big deal. (That’s Emma photobombing.)

Just like every other time you do something dumb and subsequently injure yourself, you should wash up with soap and water, and disinfect.

Even if you’re not punctured but you have some drool on you from the strange dog, you should clean up – especially if rabies is a real concern.

And, obviously, if you’re seriously injured or bit on the face/neck, you should just go straight to a clinic or emergency room (use your judgment) and they’ll clean you right up.

3. Contact a medical professional and follow his or her advice

I had the great timing of getting bit by a strange dog on a long weekend, but if your family doctor’s office is anything like mine (has the most inconvenient hours), they’re probably not going to be open anyway.

In Alberta, we are lucky and have Health Link – a 24 hour hot line you can call and get connected to a nurse for some general advice. Since I don’t go to a clinic unless absolutely necessary as a general rule, this is what I did.

Why? I got bit by a strange dog! I could get rabies! And then die!

Couldn’t I?

Fans of The Office? Anyone?

Fans of The Office? Anyone?

Well, not so much, as it turns out.

There have only been 3 cases of rabies in Canada in the past 12 years and all of those were due to bat-related incidents. An altercation with a domestic dog does not pose much of a threat for contracting rabies in Canada. Even cats pose a higher risk, the nurse on the phone informed me.

I described the incident and my little scratch and she went through the official decision tree, which I later found online here.

Bite/Rabies Decision Tree

Bite/Rabies Decision Tree

Domestic pet dog? Check. Provoked attack? Check. (Technically, involving yourself into some canine commotion is considered provoked, which does make sense.) Albertan dog? Probably. Happened in Alberta? Check.

Risk is basically nil. Phew!

If it was a stray dog or cat or a wild animal, the decision tree is a bit different and the risk is higher.

Rabies - wild animals

I didn’t get off scot-free however.

The nurse was asking me about my little laceration and then said “when was the last time you had a tetanus shot?”

Ummm… no idea (which means definitely not in the last 10 years).

Well, she informed me, an animal bite, no matter how minimal, is considered a “dirty wound”. Gross.

So off I went for an injection after all. Say what you will about our health care system, but I was in and out in 15 minutes and didn’t pay a dime.

Telling the doctor the reason for my visit granted me a nice lecture about how I should’ve gotten information from the other owners before leaving the scene (I know, I know), but further assurance that I wasn’t in need of a rabies vaccination. (I may have even asked him to give me one because… you know… what if…. But no.)

In any case, I’m glad I confirmed with the authorities, even if it’s just a stupid little grievance. It would just be my luck that I’d let it slide and then something ridiculous would happen. And I really don’t recommend Googling information about rabies to make yourself feel better… because you won’t. 

And if something ridiculous still does happen, I’m advising publicly now that I’d like my tombstone to read ‘Tis But a Scratch.

This post is part of the Thursday Barks & Bytes Blog Hop, hosted by 2 Brown Dawgs and Heart Like a Dog. Go pay a visit to the hosts and check out other hop participants.

Barks&Bytes