The Risk of Infection and Disease from a Dog Bite

Although dogs have the reputation of man’s best friend, sometimes they don’t quite meet the criteria. In fact, many dogs will attack or bite out of nowhere, seriously injuring both adults and children. Complications can arise from dog bites including life threatening diseases like rabies and infections. Here’s what you need to know.

Dog Bites and Rabies

Very few dogs in the U.S. carry rabies, but it’s still a concern. If a dog bites you, verify that the dog does or does not have rabies. This can be done by bringing the dog in for testing or obtaining its vet records. If a stray dog bit you and you don’t know if the dog has rabies or not, or if you were bitten by a dog confirmed to have rabies, you must receive treatment immediately. Treatment consists of several small injections in the abdomen. Don’t delay or refuse treatment — rabies is a fatal disease.

Dog Bites and Infections

The more likely complication of a dog bite is an infection. Since a dog’s canine teeth are very long, they cause deep puncture wounds. Puncture wounds are more at risk for tetanus, and infections in the blood can also develop. Dog bites may appear less severe than they actually are. This falsely leads people to believe they can treat the bite at home. This can be dangerous, since antibiotic ointment and cleansing the wound may not be enough to ward off bacteria.

Professional medical treatment for dog bites may include IV or oral antibiotics. Depending on the severity of the bite, the victim may require a hospital stay for monitoring. If you were bitten by a dog and develop a fever or begin to see redness, pus, or red streaks leading away from the wound, get medical help right away.


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