Caring for Wounds From a Dog Bite

What to Do After a Dog Attacks and Injures You or a Child

One of the greatest risks involved with dog bites is infection. The common myth that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human being’s is simply untrue.  Caring for wounds from a dog bite in the immediate aftermath of an attack may help to reduce infection, and provide generally accepted information while awaiting medical treatment.  If you or a child has been bitten by a dog, here are the first steps to take:

  1. Call 9-1-1 and Evaluate the Immediate Need for Medical Attention at an Urgent Care or Emergency Room
  2. If the dog appeared to foam at the mouth or was a stray, it is safest to seek immediate urgent medical care. Rabies can be fatal.
  3. Rinse all areas of the bite(s) with warm soapy water
  4. Do NOT use Isopropyl or rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, iodine or mercurochrome on puncture wounds. Minor puncture wounds do not usually require a dressing, but seek the advice of a licensed medical professional.
  5. A gash, abrasion or other more open wounds should be flushed with warm running water, followed by Isopropyl Alcohol or Hydrogen Peroxide.
  6. Dress the wound(s) but do not use a steri-strip or other means to “close” a wound
  7. Elevate limb(s) that have been bitten or injured
  8. For deeper wounds, bites or punctures apply pressure with a clean sterile pad, bandage or towel to stop the bleeding. Next, wash the wound and cover it with a sterile dressing. Seek immediate medical attention.
  9. Call your pediatrician or primary care provider and ask about the need for tetanus or antibiotic treatment
  10. Constantly monitor the affected areas for signs of infection including:
    1. Warmth
    2. Redness or soreness
    3. Any evidence of pus or oozing

What Should You Do if you are Injured by a Dog Bite?


If you are going to visit the emergency room or urgent care it is helpful to organize the following information:

  1. The tetanus vaccination status of the victim
  2. Vaccine status for the attacking dog
  3. All possible information about the owner of the dog
  4. Information if the dog has been known to have bitten others or neighborhood pets

After Immediate Medical Care Has Been Attended to, What Else Should You Do?

Call local police, the Orange County Sheriff or the Orange County Animal Care. Alert them to the situation so that the dog can be tested for rabies and other infections.  This is important not only for your own safety, but for that of the neighborhood.

California is a “strict liability” state, which means that the dog owner is strictly liable for the injuries caused by their pet. It is important to request all contact information from the owner of the dog including:

  • Name, Address, Zip
  • Cell Phone Number, home and work phone numbers
  • Name of insurance company
  • Contact Information for the attacking dog’s veterinarian
  • Copies of vaccination records (if readily available)

Caring for Wounds from a Dog Bite Should Not Replace Immediate Medical Care

You should always seek immediate medical attention in an emergency room or urgent care facility or by calling 9-1-1 if you or a child has been bitten or attacked by a dog.  The recommendations above are provided to help in the immediate aftermath to reduce the likelihood of infection, and to provide immediate triage until medical care can be sought.

Strict Liability for Dog Owners

We understand that many dog bites happen in the homes of family members, friends and neighbors. This is why good people carry insurance.  You have the right to recover all of your medical expenses and other costs associated with the dog bite or attack.  Many adults and most children will require emotional counseling as well.  California is a “strict liability” state, which means the dog owner is directly financially responsible and should have renters insurance or homeowners insurance.  We are sensitive to the relationships involved, and do everything possible to help preserve those relationships while pursuing financial recovery for medical bills and appropriate damages from the insurance company.

Caring for wounds from a dog bite helps immediately following an attack, but how do you recover all of the costs and expenses associated with medical treatment and plastic surgery?  We invite you to contact our office for a free consultation at 949-273-2693.  We will help you to understand your rights, the information required and the process of recovery.  There is no cost for our services out of pocket as we work on a contingency fee basis.