What to do in case of a dog bite: how to prevent them and understanding the importance of vaccinations

Like us, dogs rely on proper nutrition to thrive. Feeding them high-quality dog food that suits their age, size, and specific dietary needs is essential. Picture: Oscar Sutton Unsplash

Like us, dogs rely on proper nutrition to thrive. Feeding them high-quality dog food that suits their age, size, and specific dietary needs is essential. Picture: Oscar Sutton Unsplash

Published Oct 2, 2023


When it comes to faithful companions, there's no creature quite like a dog. With their unwavering loyalty and boundless affection, dogs have earned the title of “man’s best friend” and captured the hearts of people worldwide.

These lovable creatures bring an immense amount of joy and happiness to our lives, making every moment spent with them truly special.

As responsible pet owners, it is our duty to ensure that our furry friends receive the care they need to live healthy, fulfilling lives. One of the key aspects of their well-being is a balanced and nutritious diet.

Like us, dogs rely on proper nutrition to thrive. Feeding them high-quality dog food that suits their age, size, and specific dietary needs is essential.

In addition to a nourishing diet, exercise plays a vital role in keeping our canine companions happy and healthy. Dog care is vaccinations.

Just like humans, dogs are vulnerable to various diseases that can be prevented through vaccinations. Vaccines protect them from potentially life-threatening illnesses and contribute to the overall well-being of not only your beloved pet, but also your community.

The global theme for this year’s World Rabies Day is not only catchy, but also carries an important message.

The theme “Rabies: All for 1, One Health for All”, draws inspiration from Alexandre Dumas’s famous novel “The Three Musketeers”, highlighting the power of teamwork in overcoming challenges.

Building on the success of last year’s theme, “One Health, Zero Deaths”, the focus remains on achieving the ambitious goal of “Zero by 30” set by the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) – zero deaths from rabies by 2030. The theme emphasises the importance of a holistic approach, where all sectors work together to combat this deadly disease.

Rabies continues to claim thousands of lives each year, with Africa and Asia bearing the brunt of the burden.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that rabies causes 59 000 human deaths per year, with 95% of these cases occurring in Africa and Asia.

However, WHO believes these numbers may be even higher due to under-reporting. Sadly, it is the vulnerable rural populations, particularly children under 15 years of age, who are disproportionately affected.

In South Africa alone, there were 13 laboratory-confirmed and six probable cases of human rabies in 2022, a slight decrease from the previous year, according to South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

While any case is concerning, it is crucial to remember that both animal and human rabies are preventable.

“Rabies is a dangerous zoonotic disease that is nearly 100% fatal once clinical symptoms manifest. Immediate treatment post-exposure is the only way to prevent the onset of the disease in humans, making awareness and quick action vital,” explained Dr Tarryn Dent, business unit lead: Companion Animals at Zoetis South Africa (Zoetis), a global animal health company.

“The good news is that rabies is also preventable through widespread dog vaccinations, awareness campaigns, and early post-exposure prophylaxis following a bite or exposure to saliva from a suspected rabid animal before any symptoms manifest.”

According to the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), every nine minutes someone dies from rabies.

“Awareness is the most important thing we can achieve together: awareness around what to do if you’re bitten by a potentially rabid animal and why it’s so important to vaccinate pets,” said Dent.

WOAH states the key to ending rabies lies in the extensive vaccination of dogs. In South Africa, where there is a significant population of stray dogs and wild animals that can carry the disease, it remains crucial to prioritise the vaccination of companion animals.

This preventive measure is important, according to Dent, an expert in the field. It not only guarantees the survival of our beloved pets, but also plays a vital role in halting the further spread of rabies.

What to do in case of a dog bite

Dog bites are not just “accidents” that happen randomly – they are preventable traumatic injuries.

According to a recent study on dog bite prevention strategies published by the “BMJ” journal, it has been found that the dogs responsible for bites are most commonly owned by neighbours, friends, or relatives (between 23% and 83%) or unknown individuals (between 20% and 60%).

Less commonly, the dogs are owned by the victims or their families (between 5% and 30%).

Complications that can arise after a dog bite

Dog bites can lead to various complications, including infection, especially in cases of deep or severe wounds.

In addition to infection, other possible complications include bleeding, pain, skin tearing, and potential muscle or bone injuries. In rare cases, dog bites can even lead to diseases such as tetanus or rabies.

Clean the area with soap and water

If you or someone you know has been bitten by a dog, it’s important to take immediate action. First, clean the wound with soap and water. Using a large volume of water is best – you can even put the wound under a tap and rinse with lots of water.

If the wound is deep and bleeding, apply pressure with a clean, dry cloth and seek medical care as soon as possible.

Preventing Dog Bites

Preventing dog bites starts with awareness and responsible behaviour. Avoid approaching unfamiliar dogs, especially those that are sleeping or eating. Make sure young children are supervised when playing with dogs.

And if approached by a dog you don’t know, avoid running or making loud noises.

By being educated and taking precautions, we can reduce the risk of dog bites and create safer communities for both humans and our furry friends.