July 20, 2022: St John Ambulance and the RSPCA want children, adults and four-legged friends to enjoy a carefree, happy summer in parks and public spaces and are issuing practical steps to keep safe around dogs and first aid advice, if bitten.
The simple message is, any dog can bite, and to ‘Be alert, Be aware, Be safe’.
St John, the first aid and health charity, wants the public to know how to respond on the scene of a dog attack, (before expert medical attention arrives) and know what steps to take to avoid an attack in the first place.
There are an estimated 12 million dogs*in the UK, and whilst most serious, sadly, fatal attacks happen in the home, NHS Digital data shows dog bites (also referred to as strikes where injury other than a bite is caused) have risen by 17% from 7,424 in 2020/21 to 8,655 in 2021/22.
Attacks on children aged 0-4 increased from 565 in 2020/21 to 614 in 2021/22 and there was also an increase in attacks on 10-14-year-olds from 306 to 378.
- Be alert
Always keep an eye on your dog around kids, never leave them alone together.
- Be aware
Get to know your dog, dogs use signals to tell us how they feel.
- Be safe
Any dog can bite, accidents happen fast.
RSPCA dog welfare expert Dr Samantha Gaines said: “Many of us can recognise some of the clear signs that a dog gives to indicate that they’re frightened or unhappy, such as showing their teeth or growling. But there are more subtle signals that our dogs give us to tell us that they’re feeling uncomfortable and it’s really important that parents and children understand these and react accordingly.
“Yawning, lip licking, lowering their head and putting their ears back, avoiding eye contact, raising a front paw, and tucking their tail are all early signs that a dog needs some space and feels anxious.
“Children can be very difficult for dogs to understand. They tend to get very close to dogs which they can find threatening and it’s important that they learn not to approach dogs when they’re sleeping, eating or playing with a toy. Parents should always supervise childrens’ interactions with dogs.”
If unfortunately, you do witness a dog attack, it is extremely important to assess the scene.
Head of Clinical Operations at St John, Steve Hatton, advises, “If the dog attack is still active, call 999 ASAP and ask for the police and ambulance. Be clear to the operator the attack is ongoing - the police will task specialist resources to secure the dog.
“Scene safety is a serious consideration during an active dog attack, and although our instinct is to rush in and help, any would be rescuer is likely to be injured also, so it’s important to assess the situation, and if safe to do so, approach but call for professional help, immediately. “
First aid steps to take for a dog bite injury:
Danger – is it safe to approach?
Response – are they awake? Introduce yourself and ask them questions to see if you can get a response. Try to keep them calm.
Control major blood loss – heaving bleeding that may pump or squirt out quickly needs urgent management by pressing a dressing or clean cloth firmly onto the wound to stop major blood loss
Airway – Check the airway is open and clear. Open the airway by placing one hand on the forehead to tilt the head back and use two fingers form the other hand to lift the chin. If unresponsive, move on to breathing as quickly as possible.
Breathing – Are they breathing normally? Place your ear above their mouth, looking down their body. Listen for sounds of breathing and see if you can feel their breath on your cheek. Watch to see if their chest moves. Do this for 10 seconds.
Circulation - Once you have checked they are breathing, look and check for signs of other bleeding
In the UK there is no risk of rabies from a dog bite. However, there are risks from bacterial infections, including tetanus, so it’s important to:
- Remove any obvious foreign body from the wound, e.g. a tooth, hair or dirt
- Allow the wound to bleed slightly (minor bleeding) to reduce the risk of infection
- Irrigate with warm running water
- After washing, cover the wound with a dry dressing or clean cloth
- Take paracetamol or ibuprofen to ease any pain
- Seek medical assessment from A&E or a Minor Injury Unit. If unsure, call 111.
Steve added, “Despite the rise in dog attacks, serious dog attacks are still, on the whole, extremely rare. Yet it is vital parents, children and dog owners understand dogs behaviour and look for signs they are not happy and know how to react if a dog is showing signs of discomfort.
“We want everyone to have a safe and happy summer – dogs too – so please remember: ‘Be alert, Be aware, Be safe’.”