Nurses and doctors should treat patients with dog bite injuries with particular care, warns the Medical Defence Union (MDU).
Recent allegations of failure to refer or treat patients appropriately have caused the MDU to announce an official warning to health professionals.
MDU medico-legal adviser Michael Devlin said: "According to NHS statistics, the number of people attending accident and emergency departments with dog bite injuries has risen by more than 40% in the last four years and it is inevitable that many more people will visit their GPs after a bite from a dog or another animal."
The MDU advise GPs to keep a detailed record of all dog bite wounds, and to include diagrams if possible and whether the animal was known to the patient or if the trauma occurred abroad.
Nurses and doctors should also recognised the limits of their competence, they say, and if in doubt patients should be referred to an appropriate specialist at the Accident and Emergency department.
Michael Devlin added: "If not properly managed, animal bites can have serious repercussions for the patient, including infections, scarring, nerve damage, psychological effects and even death, which is why we are warning GP members to take particular care in assessing trauma caused by animal bites."