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A Biting Issue

It’s National Dog Bite Prevention Week!

Okay, maybe that’s not the most exciting news in the world. It is, however, important to be aware that even the sweetest of dogs can have some bite to their bark.

Created as an opportunity to educated and share safety precautions with the community, National Dog Bite Prevention Week runs from May 19-25.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), approximately 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year, with children ages five to 9 being the most likely victims. One out of five of all people bitten require medical attention for the bite, and 31,000 people undergo reconstructive surgery as a result. Dog bites caused 31 deaths in 2011.

Here in Marin, 56 dogs and cats bit their owners in 2013, and small to medium sized dogs accounted for twice as many reports as large dogs. The majority of local dog bites occur because the owner is trying to break up a dog fight or take something from their dog’s mouth.

What can you do to protect yourself from a dog bite? The good news is that the AVMA believes that nearly all dog bites are preventable.

Quick prevention tips:

Don’t run past a dog. They have a natural instinct to chase and catch.

If a dog approaches and sniffs you, stay still. The dog will most likely determine that you are not a threat.

Stay calm if you feel threatened. Avoid eye contact, and speak calmly and firmly. Rather than turn and run, back away slowly or stay still unit the dog leaves.

Protect your face by curling into a ball with your hands over your head and neck if you are knocked to the ground.

If your dog is in a dog fight, it’s best to have two people break it up. Resist the urge to grab for your dog’s collar –– instead, both you and the other dog’s owner should simultaneously grab the dogs by the back legs and pull backwards. Hold on until both dogs are under control. If you’re alone, avoid putting yourself in the middle of the aggression. Reach for a barrier to force between the dogs, or a hose or fire extinguisher to spray them.

What to do if you are bitten:

By law, you must file a report to the Marin Humane Society at 415.883.4621. Because the transmission of rabies from the dog to the person bitten is such a primary concern, the biting dog (or cat) will be required to undergo a 10 day quarantine and monitoring period. If you’re bitten by your own dog, also contact his or her veterinarian to inquire about their vaccination history. Of course, confine and treat the wound, and seek medic an attention if necessary.

For more information visit the American Veterinary Medical Association's website.

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