Rabies, What to Do if Bitten by a Dog
If you are a dog owner, or are around dogs, you may be wondering what happens if you are bitten by a dog. How likely is it that you will get the deadly disease known as rabies? Here is more information on what you should do if you are bitten by a dog.
If the Skin is Not Broken
If the dog bite does not break the skin there is no worry about you getting rabies. This does not mean the dog doesn't have rabies, other considerations might be addressed in regards to “why” the dog bit you, and how likely the dog is to have rabies, but you do not have to fear being infected.
If the Skin is Broken
Rabies is a virus it needs your blood stream to travel to the brain, but the good news is that it travels very slowly to the brain, so while you need to act, you do not need to panic.
Wash the wound with soap and water for at least 5 minutes. Apply iodine, or an alcohol antiseptic, to the wound, and get medical aid, especially if you require stitches.
The next thing to do is identify and contain the dog. This is easy if it is your dog, or you know the owner. If it is a stray dog you need to call the animal control officers in your area, or the police, and have them catch it.
Next you must determine if the dog is up to date on its rabies vaccination. If you own the dog, or know who does, a simple call to the veterinarian will determine if the dog is up to date on its vaccinations. If there is any doubt then the dog needs to be placed on a 10 day rabies hold. If the dog is up to date on its vaccinations and otherwise acting normal there is no reason to worry about rabies.
10 Day Rabies Hold
Either the veterinarian or animal shelter will act to hold dogs who have bitten and drawn blood. This hold is ten days long. If the animal is infected with rabies it will die within that time frame and its head will be sent to a lab for further testing, but in the mean time you will be sent to receive treatment. The general treatment is known as the post-exposure prophylaxis or PEP and is generally successful.
If the animal is fine after the 10 day hold it is returned to the owner, generally without boarding charges, but it may face a fine for biting somebody, or running at large.
A rabid dog will typically develop other indications of rabies, being more aggressive, confused, have increased salvation, have a fear of water, and be overly agitated. If a dog begins showing these signs rabies can be suspected, and the dog should be monitored closely, and put on a rabies hold if it is unvaccinated. If the dog is vaccinated and showing these signs contact your veterinarian right away.
As mentioned, rabies is slow moving, but once active it kills in less than 10 days from the appearance of symptoms. From the time you are bitten rabies can become active in as little as two weeks, or as long as two years.
If the dog cannot be caught, and you do not know whose it is, you may be encouraged to get treated for rabies immediately just in case.