Surviving a Dog Attack
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Monica had run about six miles on one of her favorite jogging trails when two dogs charged her and knocked her down.
“The dogs were eating me. They were tearing the flesh off of my body,” she recalls. “I was on the verge of giving up, and I was scared for my children, that they weren’t going to have a mother anymore. I was just praying to God for somebody to hear my cries.”
Charles was walking near the trail with his wife and heard Monica’s screams. He found her on the ground and dove on top of her.
“I said nothing else bad is going to happen to you today. I’m going to make sure that you’re alright from here on out,” Charles tells The Doctors.
Monica was in the hospital for 37 days. She had 54 lacerations, 350 staples, four blood transfusions, five surgeries and two skin grafts.
Five months later, she is still recovering, and plastic surgeon Dr. Andrew Ordon examines her wounds to assess how they are healing and what options she might have for improving their appearance.
Monica credits Charles with saving her life and says he has become like part of her family.
“I feel extremely blessed to be alive,” she says.
Veterinarian Courtney Campbell joins The Doctors to explain why dogs attack and what to do if you find yourself in a similar situation as Monica.
During the lead-up to an attack, the dog is assessing you. Dr. Campbell says you should assume a non-threatening position and stand motionless and calm. Keep your fingers tucked to protect them.
“Don’t smile because showing your teeth may be a sign of aggression to a dog,” he says. “Let him check you out.”
The dog might lose interest and leave.
If the dog has its ears pinned back, and its body is set, it is ready for an attack.
“Now you’re in for the fight of your life,” Dr. Campbell says. “This is [the] fight-or-flight mechanism.”
He explains that your natural instinct might be to flee, but he warns, “No one here can outrun a healthy dog. No one can, so you’ve got to fight.”
Dr. Courtney explains three options for how to fight off a dog attack.
“Most importantly, don’t pull away, if you feel a dog biting you,” he says. “It’s only going to result, unfortunately, in some more severe damage.”
Look for these warning signs that a dog is about to attack:
Whites of the eyes:
- An uneasy dog might divert eye contact at first, but will fixate before he bites
- Pupils will enlarge and you might see white portion around it
- Aggressive or threatened dog will have hard stare, ears will be back, head might be lowered
- Fur will be rigid and standing on end, especially along back of neck and base of tail
- Will be standing, putting most of body weight on front legs
- Some dogs will slightly lift one front paw when they sense something negative is about to happen
- A tucked tail indicates fear
- A defensive or aggressive dog will make body appear as big as possible and use tail with large, upright, fast wags
- Tail may also be upright and rigid
- Sign they are getting prepared to defend themselves
- Will put on most serious and threatening face
- Heavy breathing
- Wrinkled nose and forehead
- Mouth closed, but lips pulled up and back exposing teeth
- Humane Society
- American Academy of Family Physicians
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- American Veterinary Medical Association