Healing from a Dog Bite in Virginia: Physical and Emotional Recovery


Dog bites are unfortunately very common in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control, dogs bite over 4.5 million people annually, with one in five bites becoming infected. Children are the most common victims, followed by senior citizens. The vast majority of bites occur from a dog known to the victim, whether it is their own pet, a neighbor or family member’s dog, or a friend’s dog. Less than 20% of bites are from stray dogs.

While severe bites only account for about 1% of incidents, they can cause permanent disfigurement, disability, or even death in rare cases. Overall, dog bites are a widespread public health issue. Proper training and socialization of dogs along with responsible ownership is key to reducing bite rates.

Important Steps to Take If You Are Bitten by a Dog

If you are bitten by a dog in Virginia, the first thing you need to do is get the wound treated medically. Seek immediate medical attention, even if the bite does not look serious. Dog bites can cause deep puncture wounds, lacerations, crushed or torn tissue, bruising, and bleeding. They also carry the risk of infection, since a dog’s mouth is full of bacteria. Go to an urgent care clinic or emergency room so the wound can be cleaned, examined, and treated properly. The doctor will likely flush the wound out, administer antibiotics, get a tetanus shot if needed, and assess whether stitches or surgery are required for deep bites.

Following proper medical treatment is crucial for avoiding complications like rabies, infection, gangrene, or sepsis. Inform medical staff if the dog was unknown or could have been carrying disease.

Reporting the Bite

Any dog bite should be reported to animal control in the locality where it occurred. Virginia law requires that physicians report dog bites to animal control, but victims should follow up and make a report as well. Provide details like where the bite happened, the severity of the wound, and identifying information about the dog and its owner if known. Animal control will follow up to ensure the dog is up to date on rabies shots and to determine if the dog is a threat to public safety.

Physical Recovery at Home

Once initial medical treatment is received, focus on recovery at home. Take prescribed antibiotics and over-the-counter pain medication as needed. Keep the wound clean and change bandages regularly according to doctor recommendations. Watch for signs of infection like increased pain, swelling, warmth, redness, or pus. Avoid using the injured area as it heals, and keep it elevated to reduce swelling. The healing process can take several weeks or longer depending on severity. Complete all follow-up medical care until the doctor confirms the wound has healed fully.

Emotional Recovery

Being bitten by a dog can lead to lasting psychological trauma and PTSD symptoms in some victims. Children are especially prone to developing fear and anxiety around dogs that can persist into adulthood. Symptoms of dog bite-related PTSD include flashbacks, nightmares, hypervigilance, and avoidance of dogs or places associated with the trauma.

Recovering emotionally from a dog bite may be just as important as physical recovery.

Seeking therapy can help address any underlying emotional issues or concerns. Joining a support group may also help not feel alone in recovery. With time, effort, and professional assistance, it is possible to overcome anxiety and regain comfort with dogs again. Do not force interaction with dogs before you are ready. Making a full emotional recovery may take months for some bite victims.

Legal Action

Victims have the right in Virginia to seek compensation for injuries and other damages related to a dog bite. Consult with a personal injury attorney to determine if legal action against the dog’s owner is warranted. An attorney can help file a lawsuit if the owner was negligent, the dog had prior incidents, or local animal control laws were violated. Compensation may be awarded to cover medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and permanent scarring or disability from a severe bite. Legal action also holds irresponsible dog owners accountable and prevents future attacks.

The aftermath of a dog bite takes time, patience and diligent self-care. But with proper medical treatment, emotional support, and legal justice where applicable, recovery and healing is possible. Take it one step at a time.

Call now for a free consultation on (888) 477-0597 if you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog in Virginia. We have offices in 32 locations across 19 states, including Virginia, Ohio, and Arizona.

Voted Best Law Firm by American Institute of Trial Lawyers