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Take immediate steps following a dog bite

If you're playing with a neighbor's puppy or engaging in a friendly game of tug-o-war with your best friend's dog, accidents may happen. What's a tiny nip between friends, right?

Well, that tiny nip -- whether it comes from your own favorite pooch or a neighbor's dog -- could turn into something serious. Here's what doctors at the Cleveland Clinic want you to know about every dog bite, no matter how minor:

1. Infection is a serious concern.

Most people know that a serious dog bite needs medical attention, but they don't always realize that minor wounds also need attention.

While most people have heard of rabies and know you can get it from a dog bite, you may not know that you can also be exposed to tetanus, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Pasteurella and Capnocytophaga bacteria as well. All of these produce serious infections in humans -- and they can be present in a perfectly healthy seeming animal.

2. Take immediate steps at home.

If the bite seems serious, seek immediate medical attention at a hospital or call 911. If the bite is minor, flush the area with water and cleanse it with a mild soap (dish detergent will do). Don't immediately try to halt any minor bleeding. Bleeding helps the body flush out any bacteria in the wound. Once the wound is clean, cover it with antibacterial medication (if you have it on hand).

3. Follow up with a visit to the doctor.

Ideally, doctors say that you should seek medical treatment within eight hours of a bite to reduce your chances of a serious infection. People with autoimmune disorders or those who suffer from diabetes (and are thus prone to infections) need to be especially vigilant about seeking medical advice after a bite.

If you're fortunate, you won't suffer any lasting ill-effects from the dog bite. If you do, however, you may be able to seek compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, scarring and suffering you endure. An attorney can help you better understand your options.

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