Dogs are popular pets, and many people are in contact with dogs on a daily basis. You may see or interact routinely with your friends’ and neighbors’ dogs even if you do not have pets of your own. Although most dogs are friendly the majority of the time, they are still animals that may react to real or perceived threats by attacking and biting. Even if you take safety precautions such as avoiding unfamiliar or aggressive dogs, it is still possible to sustain a bite injury. Following proper treatment procedures may help you reduce the risk of infection.

According to WebMD’s pet care website, Fetch, approximately 4.7 million Americans sustain dog bites every year. About 20 percent of those bites require medical attention, and children are more likely to sustain severe injuries from dog bites. Fetch states that there are several important first aid steps to follow for a dog bite: using a clean cloth to stop bleeding, washing gently with water and soap, applying antibiotic ointment and covering the wound with a sterile bandage. However, it is especially important to seek immediate medical attention if you are unable to stop the bleeding or if you notice signs of infection, such as redness or swelling.

Even if the wound seems mild, it may still be wise to schedule an appointment with your health care provider. He or she may administer a rabies vaccine, especially if you do not know whether the dog that bit you had current vaccinations. A tetanus vaccine may also be necessary. A doctor may disinfect and suture a deep wound and/or prescribe antibiotics to help prevent infection.