My neighbor's dog bit me. Now what?
August 22, 2017 12:13 PM   Subscribe

I went over to their house on Sunday to bring them something. She brought the dog out with her, holding it by the collar because it was barking and trying to approach me. It lunged at me and sunk two teeth into my upper thigh, through my athletic shorts, before she pulled it back. Now what do I do?

I wasn't sure what to do. She was very apologetic. I went home and put neosporin on it. It wasn't really bleeding, just seeping a small amount, but you can see the two teeth marks. I haven't done anything since. I'm feeling a bit of anxiety about living next to the dog, but it's never been loose, and I can avoid going to their door. I'm not surprised that it happened - the dog has shown very territorial behavior in the past.

I've had a rabies vaccination, but not since 2007. Also, I'm pregnant.

So my question is:
Do I need to do any medical follow up? Are there signs of infection that I should watch for? So far, it looks like it's healing cleanly.
Is there anything I should ask or tell my neighbor? We generally have a very friendly relationship, except that their dog just bit me.
posted by oryelle to Health & Fitness (39 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I would immediately ask her to show you proof of the dog's rabies shots, for peace of mind. And yes, you should have a doctor look at it! I'm sure it's fine, though.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 12:18 PM on August 22, 2017 [29 favorites]

You don't need a rabies shot.... you and she would both know if the dog were rabid.

Call your ob-gyn to ask if there's anything you need to know about an infection risk particular to your pregnancy.

As far as what to do about the dog... I myself would call animal control and report it but I have no sense of humor at all about people who let their dogs attack.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:19 PM on August 22, 2017 [18 favorites]

You need to go to a doctor, and that dog needs training or to be removed and put down. "the dog has shown very territorial behavior in the past" and BITING A PREGNANT WOMAN is immediate call animal control time. You got lucky, next person or animal that dog bites could die.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 12:20 PM on August 22, 2017 [17 favorites]

I would not worry about the bite area re:infection unless it starts to look red, swollen or painful or showing other signs and symptoms of infection.

I would definitely report it to animal control or the police. Not the emergency line police but your town likely has a non-emergency police line that you can call to report the incident.

It sounds like if the dog is that aggressive she needs to get into the habit of locking it in another room when she answers the door.
posted by MadMadam at 12:32 PM on August 22, 2017

Make sure its rabies vaccinations are up to date - make sure you see the actual documentation or hear it from the vet. Failing that, talk to the doctor about whether you need a rabies shot. People do not always know when an animal is rabid - that's why they have to test animals that are not vaccinated and bite people. Ten years is too long for your previous shot to be effective, probably - the most recent research I read seemed to suggest that blood titres dropped off after three years and the vaccine was pretty much ineffective by five.
posted by Frowner at 12:38 PM on August 22, 2017 [19 favorites]

I would see a doctor, just to make sure. Dogs bites can be very dirty.

Depending on my relationship with my neighbor, whether she had approached me since the bite with apologies/vow to do better/offer to pay for medical care, my history with her dog, and so on, I would decide whether or not to make a bite report to your local animal control.

Our dog bit a vet tech earlier this summer - we went through the bite report process. It was an expected part, for us. of having a dog that bit someone.
posted by Squeak Attack at 12:42 PM on August 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

I got bitten by a dog when I was a teenager. No people attached to the dog, who was running loose, were around. I went home, saw that the skin was broken, and called 911 for Animal Control. Since it was Sunday, they sent a cop out. (This was the best part - the officer asked me to show her the bite, which was just below my ass, so I, age 15, said "OK!" and dropped trou, mooning a cop, on the house). We drove up the street and she saw the dog, still loose and acting aggressively, and she filed a report. The dog's shots were current and that was the end of it - for me.

The same dog later menaced or bit a child, and knocked down an elderly person (this was a really long time ago and I don't recall if those were different episodes or not). The county ultimately had it euthanized as a dangerous animal. My bite was the first report on file, and was part of establishing the history of attacks, possibly preventing a tragedy involving a dog who, through neglect and negligence, had become unsafe to have in the community.

They aren't going to euthanize a dog the first time there is an incident, if that is what you are worried about. Also the attack happened in the dog's home, not out on the street, which seems less severe to me. But you don't have to, and shouldn't, try to deal with having the owner prove rabies vaccination yourself. They can't blow off the County, and that's what your taxes pay for. Call animal control and report the incident.
posted by thelonius at 12:47 PM on August 22, 2017 [27 favorites]

This is entirely your neighbors fault, and by the way, they already know this dog is very dangerous. They have abdicated their responsibility as pet owners thus far, and any consequences are not your fault.

- See your doctor. Rabies is not really a concern, the risk for bacterial infection is very serious because you are pregnant. See your doctor immediately.

- You know you have to report this bite incident. Find out the proper way to do this and report the incident.

In your shoes, I would think about moving because the drama with the neighbors + safety risk to an infant would be too much. Life is short and this should be a joyous time for you. It will be awful to always be fearful and vigilant once your baby is born. Everything factored in, moving might be the safest/easiest outcome. Either way, you can't really pretend this did not happen. I'm sorry.
posted by jbenben at 12:51 PM on August 22, 2017 [20 favorites]

Unless someone else mentioned it, and I missed it above, you made need a tetanus shot too. (I was bit by a dog and needed one!)

Nthing what everyone else is saying; GO SEE YOUR PCP OR OB/GYN RIGHT AWAY!
posted by Hanuman1960 at 12:53 PM on August 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

This is not a situation for believing internet strangers who tell you it's probably ok (though it probably is OK). Get this checked out by your doctor. Depending on your state, your doctor might be required to report the bite to animal control. That could make it easier for you in terms of getting along with your neighbor. You're certainly entitled to seek medical attention, and you can't help what the law is.

But if your state law doesn't require doctors to report bites, I encourage you to do so. This might not be the first incident with this dog, and you need to do everything possible to protect your child.
posted by FencingGal at 12:54 PM on August 22, 2017 [5 favorites]

I also want to say that I have been around a few dogs who were aggressive in this fashion, always the owners were friends of mine. One person in particular I very much miss as a friend, I used to house sit for her. That dog sent another friend of theirs to the hospital. Looking back, it was unconscionable for her to put me in jeopardy that way. She knew! Everyone I have ever known with an aggressive dog that bit a human or mauled another animal ALWAYS lied to themselves and others about the dangerousness of their dog's aggression.

I understand your neighbor was apologetic, she's also clearly in denial. She had the dog by the collar, and still it attacked you. Don't be in denial about what this means, the dog is unpredictable and aggressive.
posted by jbenben at 1:03 PM on August 22, 2017 [20 favorites]

Nthing FencingGal. Your doctor will likely have to report this, or you can ask them to do so and pretend your doctor was overzealous if it ever comes up with your neighbor.
posted by jbenben at 1:09 PM on August 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Much as I love dogs, I gotta say, unproved attacks are a breach of the contract we've made with them, and need to be reported. Your neighbor behaved super irresponsibly bringing the dog outside with her without using a leash. You should not feel bad for reporting this! Go to your doctor right away, hopefully they will be required to report the bite, if not, report it yourself.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 1:11 PM on August 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

A dog bite is a puncture wound with caused by a dirty thing, so should be treated as such. Normally, I'd say that cleaning and watching for infection is probably good enough, but you're pregnant, so I'd say a doctor visit is in order.
posted by Ragged Richard at 1:28 PM on August 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

call the police,
posted by patnok at 1:32 PM on August 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Dog held by the collar and bites=aggressive. Not protective, absolutely aggressive. A protective doggo will bark, but not lunge unless provoked. I assume you didn't provoke the dog.


Owner is oblivious to the fact that her dog is aggressive. Mine barks and wants to sniff strangers, and I still lock her up, because who wants to deal with that crap?
posted by BlueHorse at 2:04 PM on August 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

Sorry, above I meant to say *unprovoked * not unproved (missed it in the edit).
posted by WalkerWestridge at 2:24 PM on August 22, 2017

This is a bad dog owner. A really bad dog owner. She actually had it by the collar but could not keep it from biting you. The dog is both aggressive and too strong for her to handle. I'm sorry it is terrible but yes see a doctor and yes report the dog bite.
posted by Glinn at 3:14 PM on August 22, 2017 [11 favorites]

Wow, how nice that your neighbour apologised. All better now, her job here is done! Except. She has a dog she clearly knew was vicious. She's not capable of controlling it. She let it bite a pregnant woman. She hasn't followed up on how you are, offered to pay for medical treatment, told you how she's going to stop it from happening again or reported it herself. You managed to survive this bite, this time. You know who might not? Your toddler in a year or two. As someone who has toddlers and dogs, report, report, report. She's a terrible dog owner, and you need to protect your child, even now.
posted by Jubey at 3:25 PM on August 22, 2017 [9 favorites]

Call your doctor and ask them what next. Maybe the dog should be tested. This is a matter for a healthcare professional. I'm sorry this happened, what a drag to have to deal with.
posted by theora55 at 3:28 PM on August 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

So, the easiest way to see the rabies status is to ask. My dog has proof-of-rabies-vaccination on a collar tag, but the vet will have it if not. There is no way to test a living dog for rabies, you can only kill it and look at the brain, but if it's been vaccinated it is staggeringly unlikely that it has rabies.

If you go to the doctor, they can give you antibiotics if the bite gets infected. You don't have to say which dog bit you, you can just say "I was bit by a dog."

Re the to-report-or-not, it really depends on your feels on whether involving the police in someone's life over a creature that many people consider a family member is likely to make things better or worse. There is no way you can report your neighbors' dog and still maintain a friendly relationship. And the problem here seems the owner rather than the dog - holding the dog by the collar and forcing it to approach someone it is barking at is essentially telling the dog, "You're uncomfortable, but you can't get away no matter what you do."

I would tell your friend you found the bite very upsetting, and ask if she's thought about getting the dog in to see a behaviorist.
posted by corb at 3:40 PM on August 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

You definitely need to see your doctor and see the rabies vaccine papers/contact the dog's vet - today. It's not true that you can tell when a dog is rabid. You only have 48 hours to start the shots for yourself and obviously you are pregnant so you need team you on this right away.

It's very rare but rabies kills people, as my coworker reminded me graphically when I had a raccoon encounter a few years ago.
posted by warriorqueen at 3:42 PM on August 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I can see where you would want to avoid conflict with your neighbor. I would report the incident but approach the neighbor apologetically with a story that the doctor's office automatically filed the report and didn't tell you until after the fact. That way she doesn't get surprised by a knock on the door by Animal Control, and then get angry with you for reporting her. If she already knows it's coming and thinks that it wasn't you who called them, she might not be retaliatory toward you.

Being that you are pregnant, I would say don't take any chances, go to the doctor. If you let it linger a few days and then discover that it's infected that can more serious/difficult to treat because of the pregnancy. Better to get a preemptive treatment now.
posted by vignettist at 3:58 PM on August 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Neurologist here. One of my first patients in residency had rabies, acquired from a bat, and it was absolutely heartbreaking. I still think of him from time to time. Also, about ten years ago, my dad was bitten by a neighbor's dog, and as the weirdo neighbors refused to produce a rabies vaccination certificate (and their supposed vet had no record of them), animal control came and sacrificed the dog to examine its brain -- no rabies, thank god. (The neighbors really hated my parents after that, but when their landlord found out they were letting their dog run wild around the neighborhood and threaten/bite/lunge at people, their lease was not renewed.) Rabies is no joke, and the only available treatment is (a) not very effective and (b) unlikely to be used in pregnancy.

In addition to the scary but statistically unlikely risk of rabies, there is a still-scary and much-more-likely risk of all kinds of other germs in the dog's mouth/saliva making their way into your bloodstream. Pasturella is one of the most common; there are others. You should see your doctor* and get antibiotics sooner rather than later because sepsis is no fun for anyone and double no-fun in pregnancy.

* If your doctor's office is closed and you can't get an appointment tomorrow, please go to urgent care or an ED tonight. This is what they are for. This is not a "hmm wait and see" situation. This is a potentially life-threatening and pregnancy-threatening event.
posted by basalganglia at 4:14 PM on August 22, 2017 [35 favorites]

Rabies is 100% fatal, and 100% preventable with care. People saying it's ok are being ridiculously cavalier with your health and your pregnancy. Speak to a doctor and get whatever shots they advise.

Also, do report the dog, and make sure other neighbours know what happened so they will also report if bitten.

Remember, in 18 months or less you'll have a toddler running around with their face at the perfect height to be bitten. Start a paper trail now in case the dog is truly dangerous.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 4:46 PM on August 22, 2017 [15 favorites]

The most pressing reason to make sure this gets attention from the right authorities is your future child's safety. This is an uncontrollable dog and your neighbor is in denial about it.
posted by kalapierson at 7:34 PM on August 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Report the dog to whoever issues pet licenses in your municipality. It's probably happened before.

I was bitten multiple times, unprovoked, by an illegally off-leash dog at a Seattle beach last fall, making me miss work and pay (I'm a surveyor and need my right hand to operate equipment) and generally ruining my rock climbing plans for more than a month. The owners ran, yelling "Fuck you, my dog won't be put down because of you" as they were leaving--I wanted to take photos but I couldn't grab much less operate my phone with my bloody hands. I went to the ER where they flushed my wound with saline and X-rayed my hand (because it was too swollen to move, and a hand injury could've been life changing for me), and prescribed fourteen days of heavy antibiotics (my iinsurance paid $1,400 for the visit).

A nurse interviewed me and filed a report with the appropriate state agency. Most states will let you file an animal bite report online, do that if you don't see a doctor.

They let me decide whether I want to get a rabies vaccination, I declined when they informed me that no dog has tested positive for rabies in my state in the last forty years.

A year later, I count six scars. I'm sorry that this happened to you. The feeling of disappointment and loss of faith in humanity and just how fucking awful people can be was much worse for me than the actual wounds (although a kind stranger helped me get dressed over my swimsuit and drove me in my car to the ER, which was amazing and I still think of her fondly). Talk to your neighbor about it. I don't know why she would want to keep around an animal that now has a history of hurting humans. What if it's your toddler next time?
posted by halogen at 7:53 PM on August 22, 2017 [6 favorites]

There is a reason that one third of all homeowner's insurance claims are dog bites. Most people's insurance includes a few thousand for medical claims, which is what you'll want to tap in this situation, assuming you don't want to go after her for damages. You'll probably have to cover the co-pay or office visit yourself up front, but then get reimbursed, either by your neighbor's insurance company or via your health insurance's subrogation department going after their insurance. A dog that bites unprovoked once will do it again. And often they bite children. You'd don't want that on your conscience. I got bit and found out that the dog had bitten other people around the neighborhood. If it had been reported in a timely way I wouldn't have been bitten. Or, for that matter, been threatened bodily by my neighbor.
posted by wnissen at 9:08 PM on August 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

I just want to add that if you go to the Doctors or receive any medical care they should foot the bill.

I was bit by my neighbors dog and they offered to turn their dog in themselves, and pay for medical care. I didn't need any, and in our very different circumstances I didn't feel a need to report the bite.
posted by cairnoflore at 11:48 PM on August 22, 2017

You need to go to a doctor, and that dog needs training or to be removed and put down. "the dog has shown very territorial behavior in the past" and BITING A PREGNANT WOMAN is immediate call animal control time.

I really am not sure this is as clear cut as this. You are also free to see your doctor, determine there are no lasting consequences for this, and discuss this with your neighbour (at your house, not hers, obviously.) You say the dog has never been loose; this is also clearly not the much-commented-on scenario of an unleashed dog in the street attacking you; you were on the owner's property.

Babygates, basket muzzles, closed off entry ways... there are plenty of ways for this dog's owner to secure the dog against visitors. We have literally never opened our door with a dog unsecured; not because our dogs bite, but because they are intimidating, and we don't allow them at the door, ever. It is entirely possible for your neighbour to appropriately control risk here.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:24 AM on August 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Of course it is entirely possible for the neighbour to control risk here. The point is that she's not. if she used even one of these methods described by you, the OP wouldn't be in this situation.
posted by Jubey at 4:40 AM on August 23, 2017 [6 favorites]

Of course it is entirely possible for the neighbour to control risk here. The point is that she's not.

But the OP could have a discussion with her neighbour about this, and the neighbor could commit to appropriate risk control. I think it is worth at least mentally exploring an option between "do nothing" and "kill the dog" and this is one.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:29 AM on August 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

OP isn't talking about poisoning the dog. OP is considering telling the authorities what happened, and IMO, OP, you have not only the right but the duty to do so.

The owner knows the dog. The owner does not control the dog (notwithstanding every opportunity she has had to do so.) The owner in fact CANNOT control the dog as evidenced by the fact pattern here. You only have one data point, which is that it bit you unprovoked while the owner was trying to hold it. You don't know if it's bitten before. You don't know who the next bite victim will be (only that there's a good chance it will be your own baby if this dog is still living next door to you when the baby is living there.) I think it's irresponsible not to tell the authorities about this dog; they need, at least, to have a come-to-Jesus with the owner, and have a record of the attack.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:11 AM on August 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

You need to report this today. If you need encouragement just picture your reaction to the news that this dog has killed a child.

posted by Cosine at 8:28 AM on August 23, 2017

See your doctor and report the incident to police or animal control (whoever handles it in your area. I personally wouldn't tell the neighbor anything. She should know the dog stands to be reported after biting a person. If she brings it up to you, just tell her you reported the incident because you were bit after she failed to control her dog.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:07 AM on August 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

I've dealt with dog bites from separating fighting dogs a few times, and I think you should definitely check in with your doctor. You will need a tetanus shot if you haven't had one in a while, and be especially wary of infection since you're pregnant. I know you said it looks as if it's healing normally, but your doctor may recommend a prophylactic course of antibiotics. In the future, you want to make sure puncture wounds are flushed clean with a sterile saline solution before applying antibiotic ointment. With just the ointment you risk encouraging the exterior part of the wound to heal over quickly, leaving the bacteria inside which can become an abscess.

As mentioned above, you need to make sure the dog has a current rabies vaccination. Rabies is no joke. But it's probably also not likely, considering you've seen this type of guarding behavior in the past and it's not a sudden onset of new aggression. If it were me, I would probably have a serious conversation with the neighbor about what steps she's going to take to prevent this type of incident in the future before deciding whether or not to report it.
posted by thejanna at 9:14 AM on August 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

I was attacked by a german shepard a couple years ago and unfortunately got a secondary infection that requires antibiotics. The owners could not produce proof of rabies vaccination, so I also had a rabies and tetanus booster when I went to urgent care. I would also seriously consider reporting the bite. I did not as I know the owners and they asked me not to, which I regret. The dog went on to bite a child, a horse, and another adult.
posted by snowysoul at 12:09 PM on August 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

The owner does not control the dog (notwithstanding every opportunity she has had to do so.) The owner in fact CANNOT control the dog as evidenced by the fact pattern here.

We don't actually know this. All we know is that the owner is not currently very good at controlling the dog. We don't know if the owner has seen a behaviorist, or her veterinarian. We don't know what the owner is aware of, because there hasn't been a conversation with the owner about any of this.

I think a conversation that starts, "Hey, I need to go get medical care, and I know they're going to ask which dog bit me. I don't want to report your dog and start the 'dangerous dog' process, I know you love this dog. Help me help you - tell me what you're going to do to control this dog, who you're going to see for professional help, that lets me sleep at night" would be very effective. You're already friends with this woman, who presumably loves her dog and doesn't want even the chance of it being put down - and yes, depending on the locality, they can be put down quite easily for 'unprovoked' biting, even if the 'unprovoked' biting is actually provoked by the owner being an idiot (holding the dog by the collar and advancing it towards negative stimuli).
posted by corb at 12:11 PM on August 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's not protection if there is no danger. I am fed up to the eyeballs with people calling fearful/aggressive behavior "protection". Fear and aggression are two sides of the same coin, and the VAST majority of aggression from pet dogs is actually fearful behavior, which in no way excuses it, but people like to call it "protection" to try and put a positive spin on a very negative thing.

Go to your doctor. This bite will be reported. It should be.

I love dogs more than I love most people and I euthanized one of my dogs for behavior because I worried he MIGHT bite someone, he never DID, but I worried he might. That's what responsible dog owners do. It broke my heart, it broke my husband's heart, but if he ever bit someone there's no way we could pretend to ourselves that we hadn't been concerned about it. And I am a dog trainer, I work in veterinary medicine, and I spent all nine of that dog's years on this planet working on his loose screws, from trainers and behaviorists to medications and workshops. There are many things that went wrong here (starting with bringing the dog outside in the first place when you were there), but none of them are your fault. Go to the doctor. Look after yourself and your pregnancy. And remember that this dog wasn't "protecting" anything, it's in all likelihood a fearful, undersocialized dog with a couple of screws loose. Dogs should not bite people who are not directly threatening or hurting them. Period.
posted by biscotti at 2:17 PM on August 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

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