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Tips on avoiding a dog bite

Americans who die from dog bites are almost as numerous as those killed by lightning. Thirty people died from dog bites last year in the U.S. versus 58 who died after being struck by lightning.

In La Crosse, if a person has been bitten by a dog, the dog must be quarantined for 10 days to check it for signs of rabies.

Nationally, more than a half-million people annually need hospital treatment after being bitten by a dog; most of these injuries are to children, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

The Animal Behavior Center of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says that parents should instruct their children on how to act around dogs so that the kids don't frighten them.

Generally, people also need to know how to watch for body language from a dog such as snarling, teeth showing and growling. A dog's ears pointing forward could also be a sign of an impending attack and wagging the tail doesn't always indicate a dog is happy. Even an angry glance can be a warning.

The ASPCA's recommendations include avoiding direct eye contact with a dog, avoiding attempting to wake a sleeping dog or bothering one that is eating. If a dog is caring for puppies, you should leave the dog alone.

Let a dog sniff you first and offer it a closed hand until the dog gets used to you. Avoid making any sudden or threatening gestures. If the dog will let you, gently pet the shoulders or chest, staying away from the head. Should the dog become aggressive and begin a chase, insulate yourself from a potential bite with a jacket or backpack. If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and stay still.

Depending on the severity, dog bites require medical attention that ranges from washing the bite with soap and water to seeing a doctor for more serious wounds.

Call the local animal control office to report any dog bite injuries.

Source: Sun Herald: "Life Skill: Avoiding dog bites" by William Hageman: June 6, 2011

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