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3 quick tips about dog bites

You don't want to be bitten by a dog -- any dog -- no matter what its size, because nearly one out of five of those bites end up becoming infected. Even if the bite is minor, the infection can end up being major.

Most people don't know how to tell the difference, however, between a dog that's just nervously trying to make friends and a dog that's ready to pounce. Here are some things to keep in mind:

-- Don't listen to the owner.

Owners can be incredibly blind when it comes to their dogs. An owner may unconsciously choose to discount all of the "near misses" when their dog almost bit someone or times when the dog bit them while "playing."

-- Look out for fear, anxiety or aggression.

Dogs will usually bite out of fear, anxiety or just plain aggression -- or even a mixture of the three. Look for common signs that the animal is hostile to your presence:

-- A low, guttural growl through a clenched jaw, lips drawn back from its teeth

-- A stiff stance, combined with a full-on stare, which is a very hostile attitude from any dog

-- Snarling and lunging forward as if on an invisible chain, which could be a warning not to come closer

Dogs that are fearful may show the opposite signs of aggression, crouching low to the ground and retreating, trying to make itself look smaller. Don't pursue a frightened dog trying to make friends -- that could result in a panicked attack from a truly terrified dog.

-- Seek treatment for any bite wound that breaks the skin.

It doesn't matter how small the open wound, you still run the risk of infection with several different diseases:

-- Rabies, although it is relatively rare in the United States

-- Pasteurella, which can cause swollen glands, joint swelling and difficult moving, is actually seen in over 50 percent of infected dog bites

-- Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, or MRSA, can spread to the bloodstream and cause a staph infection that isn't easy to treat

-- Tetanus, which causes a form of paralysis

There are, of course, other problems that can go along with bite wounds. Major bite wounds may require surgery, leave scars, permanently disfigure someone or leave them unable to work.

If you've been injured by a dog bite, please consider visiting our webpage on the topic.

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Tampa, FL 33603

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