It can happen to anyone at any time; one minute you’re happily playing with a dog, the next you’re the victim of a vicious attack. Dog bites can be very serious, and you’ll need timely medical intervention to ensure you recover from your injuries. The Cleveland Clinic explains what you should do if bitten by a dog.

The risk of bacterial infection is high with dog bites. Proper wound care is crucial in this case, and this should start with lightly pushing on the wound to flush out bacteria. Next, wash with gentle soap and water, and apply antiseptic cream if available. Once the wound is properly cleaned, place a sterile bandage over the area to stop any active bleeding.

At this point, it’s best to pay a visit to your doctor. Even if the bleeding stops on its own you want to ensure the wound is not infected. Signs of infection include redness and swelling around the wound, as well as pain and fever. Your doctor will be able to make the best assessment of whether the wound is at risk of infection. He or she may also recommend stitches or sutures if the wound is deep.

It’s important to provide information on the dog that attacked you to your medical team. If the dog was unvaccinated, you also run the risk of acquiring rabies. This is a very serious illness that is spread through the saliva of an infected animal. It’s important to get assistance right away if you suspect rabies, as once symptoms present the disease is often fatal.