Dogs are such a joy to be around with. They’re called ‘man’s best friends’ for a reason, and there’s something therapeutic about playing and cuddling with them. Then again, dogs are still animals and it’s in their nature to bite. You can’t tell for sure when it can happen. Somewhere between tail wagging and playful growling, your dog’s natural instinct can overwhelm them and that could result in few scratches or worse, a dog bite.
When a dog bites you, its front teeth will grab and squeeze your skin tissue. Its smaller teeth, on the other hand, may tear the skin which will then lead to a ragged and open wound. What you should do is immediately treat the wound to prevent it from getting infected. You also have to make sure you get medical attention afterward.
The primary concern with animal bites is the risk of infection. Depending on the severity of the bite, you may be admitted to the hospital to receive intravenous antibiotics. If you’ve been bitten by a dog, you have to watch out for any of these symptoms of a dog bite infection:
Redness and swelling are the most common symptoms of wound infections. It shouldn’t be a cause for concern but when the redness and swelling are accompanied by pain and the condition isn’t improving within 24 hours, it could mean that the dog bite has been infected you and it may lead to more serious complications.
In case you haven’t seen a medical doctor yet, now’s the time to do so, immediately. Don’t wait it out in the hope that it will get better because there’s an even higher chance that the infection will worsen if not treated urgently. Infection is most likely possible if you were bitten by a stray dog.
If you’re worried about the medical expenses that will come with the treatment or medication, you can check out your state’s liability rule concerning dog bites, especially if it’s not your own dog that bit you. If you live in New Jersey, for example, their dog bite statute strictly states that it’s the owner of the biting dog who’ll be held liable for any injuries caused by the bite.
Be sure to get in contact with a New Jersey dog bite lawyer so you can be immediately protected by their dog bite statute.
A dog’s mouth is filled with bacteria and if its bite punctures your skin, bacteria and other infectious agents will be introduced beyond the skin surface. When that happens, the bacteria will most likely multiply, thus spreading throughout the skin tissues. Once the bacteria have spread, a localized abscess or pus will start draining from the wound.
If left untreated, it can lead to a more serious condition or tissue infection called cellulitis. Cellulitis can also cause side effects that may worsen, leading to conditions such as:
Treatment of cellulitis would depend on the severity of the infection and could last from 7-10 days. You’ll be given anti-bacterial medications such as penicillin and amoxicillin. There may also be a need to drain the pus using intravenous anti-bacterial if the infection is serious.
Fever is one of the signs of a dog bite infection that you need to closely watch out for. When a bitten person starts manifesting fever, it may mean that the infection is spreading to other parts of the body. Fever is among the systemic signs of a systemic infection called Capnocytophaga Canimorsu. What’s scary about this infection is that it can occur even without any evidence that the dog bite is infected.
Aside from fever, other signs and symptoms of Capnocytophaga Canimorsu include:
Once the infection progressed, septic shock or sepsis may occur, which could lead to death if not treated immediately.
Although rare, you should still watch out for swollen or enlarged lymph nodes near the dog bite area. If you think you’re showing this particular symptom, don’t wait it out and head to the nearest doctor or hospital immediately. Swollen lymph nodes are a life-threatening sign of dog bite infection and can lead to more serious conditions, even death.
Aside from swollen lymph nodes, you also need to watch out for other serious symptoms of infection such as loss of sensation around the dog bite area, fatigue, night sweats, red streaks near the wound, as well as limited to almost no movement of the limbs near the bite area. These are the less common symptoms of a dog bite infection that may occur if not given medical care immediately.
Swollen lymph nodes accompanied by difficulty moving and painful joints can be caused by an infection called Pasteurella Bacterium. A Pasteurella infection can occur after an animal scratch or bite and can also lead to cellulitis.
After you’ve been bitten, you have to visit a medical practitioner as soon as you can, or at least within eight hours. Keep in mind that waiting will only increase the risk of getting the dog bite infected. Another factor to consider is if you have underlying illnesses such as diabetes that may compromise your immune system.
To treat a dog bite at home, these steps must be taken right away:
It’s also important that you remember when you had your tetanus shots and if they are up-to-date. Although a tetanus immunization generally lasts for up to 10 years, the doctor may recommend another shot particularly if it’s been five years since you last had one. A booster shot may also be recommended depending on the severity of the bite.
Although some dog bites are minor and won’t most likely progress into an infection, you still need to take extra precautions and get medical attention within eight hours after being bitten. You must get the wound treated right away and observe closely in case any of the symptoms listed above would appear.
Aside from knowing when you had your last tetanus shot, you also need to get the rabies vaccine. This is most particularly important if you’ve been bitten by a stray dog or someone else’s dog because you can’t tell for sure if they’ve been exposed to the rabies virus. Rabies attacks the central nervous system and although human cases are extremely rare in the US, it has the highest mortality rate of 99.9%—and it’s the only disease on earth that has such a mortality rate.
Rabies is preventable but once you got it, there’s nothing that the doctors can do for you anymore. That’s why it’s important that you get vaccinated within 24 hours after you’ve been bitten. You should also mention to your doctor if the dog that bit you has received and completed rabies vaccination in the past. If they haven’t, they need to be closely observed to see if they’ll manifest symptoms of rabies virus such as changes in behavior, extreme fear of water, seizures, fever, and paralysis.
Dog bites are hard to predict because it’s not all the time that you know how animals around you would react. Even when you’re just passing by a regular street, you’ll never know if a stray dog will appear from nowhere and attack you. It can also happen when you’re visiting a friend or family neighbor and their dogs are too territorial, leading them to attack or bite you.
If you’ve ever in such a situation where you were bitten by a dog, do the right steps right away. Wash the wound thoroughly and make sure you visit a doctor within eight hours. Not washing the wound right away would increase the risk of infection. You should also let the doctor know how you were attacked, what kind of dog was it, and if it was a stray animal or a domestic dog owned by a household in your area. Lastly, tell the doctor if you have any underlying illness that may compromise your immune system.
Watch out for any signs and symptoms of a dog bite infection. Even when you’ve already visited the doctor soon after you got the bite, go to the hospital again as soon as you start exhibiting any of these symptoms. Remember that the key is to always act urgently. You can’t afford to waste an hour or a day because when a dog bite gets infected, it can lead to several serious illnesses that may cause serious complications or even death.
Lastly, know the legal proceedings concerning a dog bite. Consult with a lawyer if needed because if the dog bite gets infected, it may mean several doctor visits and even hospitalization. Not to mention, of course, the cost of treatments and medications for your dog bite infection. It’s best to know your rights while making sure that you’re getting the right medical care.