Dog Bites: A SHTF Medical Emergency You Haven’t Considered

As discussed in Feral Dog Packs: A Rising Epidemic for this Nation, wild dog packs are not only an issue in post-disaster situations, they are already a large concern in urban areas. Packs of wild, abandoned dogs rummaging all over Detroit were harming citizens that innocently walked in their path. Sadly these abandoned animals will only continue to roam the streets of Detroit and continue to wreak havoc due to the city’s financial woes and the city’s dwindling budget for animal control. The Humane Society of the United States director visited Detroit recently, saying

“It was almost post-apocalyptic, where there are no businesses, nothing except people in houses and dogs running around. The suffering of animals goes hand in hand with the suffering of people.”

Medical Issues Arise From Dog Bites

The Washington Times reports, “Stray dogs are literally terrorizing the city as the ratio of humans to animals continues to balance out.” To make matters worse, dog bites have increased as well. Last year, there were 903 dog bites in Detroit. This canine aggressiveness has forced some U.S. mail deliveries to halt in certain neighborhoods. One Detroit resident was scalped by two stray dogs who attacked her on her porch.

Outbreaks of rabies is a major concern for city’s that have a large population of unvaccinated street dogs as they are one the most common carriers of the painful and often fatal disease. That said, rabies isn’t the only medical issue to be concerned with:

  • Parvovirus should be suspected if bitten by an unknown animal.
  • Bacterial infections of soft tissues or bone (osteomyelitis) which can become life threatening if untreated.
  • Capnocytophaga canimorsus transmission (a gram-negative bacterium) can cause overwhelming sepsis in asplenic patients, the elderly, and the immunocompromised. Empriric treatment for this bacteria following a dog bite, consisting of a third-generation cephalosporins early in the infection, should be instituted in these patient populations, or following deep bites or dog bites to the hand.

Treating a Dog Bite

If the skin is not disturbed, or if there is a minimal abrasion present, it may be reasonable to watch for signs of infection (pain, redness, warmth, swelling, and drainage of pus or fluid) before seeking medical care.

Medical care should be accessed if the dog bite disrupts the skin causing a puncture, laceration, or tear. As well, if there is pain at or near the injury site, underlying structures may have been damaged and medical care may be needed.

Essentials of dog bite treatment are: inspection, debridement, irrigation, and closure.

  1. Carefully inspect bite wounds to identify depth of injury and devitalized tissue. Obtaining an adequate inspection of a bite wound without it first being anesthetized is nearly impossible. Care should be taken to visualize the bottom of the wound and, if applicable, to examine the wound through a range of motion.
  2. Debridement is an effective means of preventing infection. Removing devitalized tissue, particulate matter, and clots prevents these from becoming a source of infection, much like any foreign body. Clean surgical wound edges result in smaller scars and promote faster healing.
  3. Irrigation is another important means of infection prevention. A 19-gauge blunt needle and a 35-mL syringe provide adequate pressure (7 psi) and volume to clean most bite wounds. In general, 100-200 mL of irrigation solution per inch of wound is required. Heavily contaminated bite wounds require more irrigation. Isotonic sodium chloride solution is a safe, available, effective, and inexpensive irrigating solution. Few of the numerous other solutions and mixtures of saline and antibiotics have any advantages over saline. If a shield-like device is used, take care to prevent the irrigating solution from returning to the wound, which decreases the effectiveness of the irrigation.
  4. Primary closure may be considered in limited bite wounds that can be cleansed effectively (this excludes puncture wounds, i.e., cat bites). Other wounds are best treated by delayed primary closure. Facial wounds, because of the excellent blood supply, are at low risk for infection, even if closed primarily, but the risk of superinfection must be discussed with the patient prior to closure. Bite wounds to the hands and lower extremities, with a delay in presentation, or in immunocompromised hosts, generally should be left open.
  5. If a bite wound involves the hand, consider immobilizing in a bulky dressing or splint to limit use and promote elevation.


If seen at a medical facility, professionals will suggest administering a tetanus booster, may initiate anti-rabies treatment and a round of antibiotics as a preventative for bites from animals with unknown vaccination records. Other animals that may carry the rabies virus are cats, foxes, bats, raccoons, or skunks in the Americas.

After the wound has been treated, regularly inspect it and if fever, sepsis, spreading cellulitis, severe edema, crush injury, or loss of function is present, seek medical assistance.

The threat of feral dog packs do exist and will only increase from the poor economic downturn we are experiencing. Prepare accordingly for this issue and understand the mannerisms of a feral dog, attack behavior and feeding habits.

The Prepper's Blueprint

Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.

Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. 

Visit her web site at for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published August 24th, 2013
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  • Meesch

    Plague would also be a possibility as stray dogs may resort to feeding on the local rodent population.  Cases of plague still occur throughout the world and have increased here in the US midwest in recent years.
    Any rodent born diseases could be picked up by cats and dogs eating them and carried in their bite.  A man in Oregon, I think, was bitten by his cat while trying to pull a mouse from it’s mouth.  Article below.  Frightening to think that recession could potentially lead to increases in the rodent population from abandoned buildings and decreased services like trash disposal.

  • Fran

    I would have to say this is the first article you’ve written that PISSED-ME-OFF!

    Really?  DID YOU ACTUALLY WATCH THE VIDEO?  These feral dogs are generally NOT DANGEROUS!  It is repeated throughout the video.

    As an owner of two large, but gentle dogs, it’s is already a struggle with the non-dog-owning public without YOUR FEEDING ILLOGICAL FEAR OF DOGS!

    Extremely disappointing!


  • Gregory Baker

    Tess, this is an extremely well-written article, concise and to the point, covering all the bases; readers of this should also read your article on feral dog packs, it’s a topic that is seldom covered in the prepper community. There may be times when a gunshot would draw attention that you don’t want, so silent weapons would be the answer. In the comments to the feral dog pack article, Prepping Preacher suggests a crossbow and a .22; I would not recommend either of them for defense against dogs. If you go to Youtube and watch videos on ‘pit bull attacks’ and pit bull killed’ you will find out why these are inadequate tools, especially the .22, although it is valuable for other uses. Western Australia has banned crossbows due to the number of accidents, and if you do a search on crossbow accidents you will find pictures and accounts of horrific injuries and deaths from them. Unless you get an expensive crossbow and train yourself well, your risk of death or injury is just too high, they’re inherently unsafe and most if not all archery ranges have banned them. The reload time is also a negating factor if you’re facing multiple animals. A compound bow would do the job, but extensive training would be required, and the maintainence factor is high. I’d recommend a takedown recurve.

    Thing is, you want to keep your distance from an individual or pack. There are other options, but most have various advantages and disadvantages. Bear spray is one, but watch the wind or you’re going to be the one blinded and coughing. A spear. A can of hairspray and a lighter (I’d recommend the Delta Windmill windproof lighter- good item to have on hand anyway). A while back I went looking for a two-handed machete; I found a United Cutlery 420 stainless steel Ninja Sword for $25 on eBay. Nice item, but I had to beef up the sheath and polyurethane the nylon cord on the handle. It would do in a pinch. What I’m saying is (as in all prepping) be creative, think outside the box, there are plenty of defensive weapons at hand. One of my favorites- about 20 years ago, I was extremely fortunate to snag 3 Fyr-Fyter 2 1/2 gallon model F2W fire extinguishers for $15 each at a yard sale. This is a refillable water extinguisher that can be recompressed with a standard compressor. What if I refilled it with ammonia, how effective a weapon would that be with a range of 60-70 feet? Again, watch the wind. A super soaker would work too, but always consider backup plans, in case you get a pit bull on PCP. Oh, and tall thick boots and if you can afford it, leather-Kevlar animal handling gloves.

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