“My Puppy Bit Me! What Should I Do?”
The scenario is usually this – a puppy, playful as can be expected, nips an owner during play, hard enough that blood is drawn or a bruise is formed. Usually it is just a scratch, barely more than a welt, and sometimes not even bad enough to break the skin. I have seen paper cuts that are more severe. Panic follows. Fear of rabies infection sets in. Many times, pet owners come to me in a panicked state with the usual questions:
Q: What should I do as first aid for the bite?
A: 1. If a puppy bites or scratches you, immediately clean the wound with soap and running water.
2. Thoroughly scrub the wound for around 5 minutes.
3. After rinsing, apply povidone iodine OR 70% alcohol solution to the wound.
4. Consult a medical doctor or visit a bite clinic.
Also, read my article on First Aid for Dog Bites and Scratches for more details.
Q: Do you administer anti-rabies shots for people?
A: No, I’m a veterinarian, an animal doctor. I don’t treat people nor carry vaccines for human use. The rabies vaccines that I have are for animals and are given to animals to prevent them from contracting rabies from animals that are infected with the rabies virus.
Q: Do I need post-exposure rabies shots from a medical doctor?
A: That is a question that should be answered by a medical doctor.
Q: Could you please inject our puppy with rabies vaccine now, just in case our puppy bites us again?
A: I can inject the puppy with rabies vaccine if it is healthy, if it is of proper age to be vaccinated (3 months and older), and if it hasn’t had the rabies shot already. The rabies vaccine does not cure rabies nor get rid of some inborn rabies toxin, as many Filipino pet owners mistakenly believe. The rabies vaccine protects a vaccinated dog from becoming infected if it ever is bitten by a rabid animal. Read about Common Misconceptions About Rabies In Puppies.
Q: Should I be worried? Am I going to get rabies from the puppy bite?
A: It is difficult to answer the question with one absolute answer, especially because there are so many factors to consider:
Why did the puppy bite?
Is the puppy healthy?
Has the puppy been vaccinated against rabies?
Does the puppy roam outside?
Has the puppy recently been bitten by another animal (a dog, a cat, a rat, etc.)
How severe is the wound? etc., etc.
A vet and medical doctor needs to know the answers to these questions because they provide important information about the seriousness of the bite wound and the risk of infection in the puppy and risk to the patient.
Q: Can you clip our puppy’s teeth so we can prevent him from biting us again?
A: No. Puppies change teeth at around 5 months of age at which point the sharper teeth are replaced by the duller permanent set of teeth. Clipping your puppy’s teeth can be painful and result in infections. You can prevent puppy bites from happening by teaching your puppy bite inhibition, and by redirecting the puppy biting to appropriate activities or structured play with toys.
Q: Do you think our puppy could have rabies?
A: Puppies kept indoors and that have no interaction with other animals are unlikely to have contracted rabies, because rabies is generally contracted through bites from infected animals. If your puppy is showing any signs of illness (lethargic, inappetent, poor body condition, changes in behavior, etc.) take your puppy to the vet immediately to be examined.
Q: Why does our puppy bite?
A: Puppy biting and nipping is normal. It should not surprise you that your puppy bites because the fact is puppies do not have hands with which to explore and interact with the world so they use their mouth and their teeth. However, you can teach your puppy to regulate the strength of its bite by teaching it bite inhibition, and play with your puppy using toys instead of just your hands so your puppy learns that these are the proper things to chew and nibble on. Read more on Solutions for Puppy Biting.