Solicitor James McNally has some practical advice for anyone who has been bitten by a dog

The Boots website (www.webmd.boots.com/a-to-z-guides/dog-bites) is a surprisingly valuable source of information on dog bites, the impact they can have and the type of treatment that can help.

The site makes it clear that the most common complication – infection – can usually be avoided by administering simple first aid. Animal saliva contains millions of bacteria that can lead to an infection.

If it's a minor bite it can probably be treated at home by following these steps:

• Clean the wound immediately: run it under warm water for a few minutes to ensure it is thoroughly cleaned.

• Encourage bleeding from the wound: if it is not already bleeding, gently squeeze the wound to encourage it to bleed, which will help prevent bacteria entering the wound.

• Provide pain relief: take over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to reduce pain and inflammation.

Because there is a risk of infection the NHS also recommends seeking medical advice for a dog bite, unless it's a very minor one.

Infection can cause serious complications. If there is a suspicion that the wound has become infected seek medical advice immediately as an infected animal bite can lead to sepsis (blood poisoning), endocarditis (infection of lining of the heart) and even meningitis (infection of the outer brain).

Signs to look out for include:

• The wound becoming more painful

• Redness and swelling around the bite

• Fluid or pus leaking from the bite

• A fever with a temperature of 38°C or above and shivers

• Swollen lymph glands.

Immediate medical attention should also be obtained if the dog bite is to the hands, feet, a joint, tendon or ligament, the face or scalp, the genitals, or the nose or ears.

If you are already suffering from a pre-existing condition such as diabetes, HIV or a liver disease – this can make you more susceptible to infection. Similarly if the victim is receiving medical treatment such as chemotherapy that weakens the immune system, it is important to seek medical advice.

Your doctor can treat a bite at the surgery if it's not too severe, or you can go to a walk-in centre or a local minor injuries unit.

Severe dog bites should be treated at the accident and emergency (A&E) department in your local hospital.

If the bite is actively bleeding, use a clean cloth to apply pressure to the wound and keep the wound elevated.

If part of the body such as an ear, finger or toe has been bitten off, wash it in tap water and seal it in a container or polythene bag, then place the container or bag in a tub of iced water. This will keep it cool while you take it to hospital in case there's a chance it can be re-attached with reconstructive surgery.

Call for an ambulance without delay if the person bitten is in shock.

Says Dog bite solicitor and Personal Injury expert, James McNally:

"Getting immediate medical attention can make a huge difference. Dog bite victims often don’t realise that if not properly treated even minor bites can result in infections which can lead to complications in terms of their treatment as well as more time of work and more pain and suffering. Speak to a specialist solicitor as soon as possible after a dog has bitten An early admission of fault by the owner can often mean that the victim will be entitled to recieve payment from the dog's insuers for private medical treatment. this can greatly aid recovery.

If you have been bitten by a dog and wish to claim compensation for your injuries along with your out of pocket expenses contact us without delay for free guidance and details of our No Win No Fee funding. Email james.mcnally@sleeblackwell.co.uk or call our FREE legal helpline on 0808 139 1601.

First Aid tips for dog bite victims
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