Even as they become more prominent, dog bites are often overlooked as a serious injury. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the number of dog bite incidents that have required a hospital visit in the past 16 years has nearly doubled -- increasing an astonishing 88 percent.
The actual bite can be bad enough. Some dogs have incredibly powerful jaws capable of breaking bones and causing extensive internal injuries, some of which can be so bad that the injuries are fatal.
But even if the bite is not very serious, it can spread diseases or bacteria to its victim. Some dogs are not well taken care of by their owners; and as a result, the animal is not vaccinated against dangerous diseases, such as rabies. Without treatment, rabies is fatal. After a dog bite incident, you should immediately seek post-exposure treatment to ensure you do not have rabies or other diseases commonly spread by dogs.
Ultimately, though, the best defense against dog bites is prevention. This does not mean "avoid all dogs at any cost." That simply is not fair to dogs who truly are nice or dog owners who properly take care of their pet.
Instead, what we mean by prevention is that you need to respect and understand dogs. For example, dogs nowadays are domesticated. But they are descendants of wolves: wild, dangerous animals. Today's dogs still carry some of the instincts of their descendants, such as defensive and territorial instincts.
So, remember to respect dogs. Do not aggressively approach dogs that you do not know. You have to give them time to know you. This goes double for any children you may have. Kids may be tempted to play with a dog; but if the dog is not very social or if it is uncomfortable, it will defend itself -- even against a small child.
Source: Ravalli Republic, "Prevention is the best medicine when it comes to dog bite injuries," John Holtzen, Jan. 29, 2013
· Our law firm handles animal attack cases; so to learn more, please visit our Anchorage dog bite page.