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Oklahoma State University
Center for Veterinary Health Sciences

Healthy Animals - Healthy People

Preventing and Treating Dog Bites

Monday, May 18 2015

Veterinary Viewpoints

National Dog Bite Prevention Week is May 17-23, 2015. Veterinarians at OSU’s Veterinary Medical Hospital offer some helpful tips on preventing and treating dog bites.

Any dog of any breed has the potential to bite. Dog bites are a preventable public health problem. Most people are bitten by their own dog or one they know. There is little scientific evidence to support the claims that certain breeds of dogs are more likely to bite.

How can dog bites be prevented?

Before you bring a dog into your household, carefully select your pet.  Do not buy a puppy on impulse.

Your veterinarian can help you identify a reputable trainer for your new family member.

Spaying or neutering a dog often reduces aggressive tendencies.

If you have children, it is suggested that you wait until they are 4 years old or older to buy a pet. Be sensitive to cues that a child is fearful or apprehensive about a dog. If a child feels frightened of dogs, wait before buying a dog.

Before buying or adopting a dog, spend time with it. Fostering a dog is a great way to test the waters so to speak to see if the dog is a great fit for you and your family.

You’re Getting a Dog

You’ve decided to get a dog. Here are several things you can do to keep your family safe.

Spaying or neutering your pet often reduces aggressive tendencies.

Never leave infants or young children alone with a dog. Avoid playing aggressive games with your dog.

Properly socialize and train your dog. Socialize your puppy so it feels comfortable around other people and animals. Training your dog builds a bond of obedience and trust.

If your dog develops aggressive or undesirable behaviors, seek professional advice immediately. A veterinarian, animal behaviorist or responsible trainer should be able to offer you some helpful tips.

Keep your dog healthy. How a dog feels affects how it behaves. Follow your veterinarian’s advice regarding vaccinations and parasite control.

Safety Tips for Children

Teach children, including toddlers, these basic safety tips and review them regularly:

  • Treat your pet with respect
  • Don’t approach an unfamiliar dog
  • Ask owner permission before reaching for or petting a dog
  • Be motionless (be still like a tree) when approached by an unfamiliar dog. Let the dog see you and sniff you before petting it
  • Don’t run away from a dog
  • No screaming
  • If knocked down by a dog, roll into a ball and be still
  • Don’t play with a dog unless supervised by an adult
  • Report any stray dogs or dogs displaying unusual behavior to an adult
  • Avoid direct eye contact with a dog
  • Do not disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating or caring for puppies
  • Do not take bones, balls, sticks, toys or food away from a dog

If someone is bitten by a dog, wash the bite with soap and water and seek medical attention as soon as possible. Always report the bite to a local health department.

Dogs provide great love and companionship and are often a lifetime family member. Teach your pet good manners and know how to properly care for, train and handle your dogs. Be sure to educate family members concerning basic bite prevention tips.

by Elisabeth J. Giedt, DVM

Veterinary Viewpoints is provided by the faculty of the OSU Veterinary Medical Hospital.  Certified by the American Animal Hospital Association, the hospital is open to the public providing routine and specialized care for all species and 24-hour emergency care, 365 days a year.