Of the 4.7 million dog bites that occur every year in the U.S., 18% — nearly 1 in 5 – become infected after not getting treated. Some dog bite infections are minor and can be treated at home, but others are more serious and may require immediate medical attention.
Minor Infections from Dog Bites
Dog bites are likely to become infected due to the amount of bacteria that live in a dog’s mouth. While most of this bacteria is harmless to humans, it only takes one of the few dangerous strains that pose a threat to you to make you sick.
Relatively minor dog bite infections can be caused by several types of bacteria. For example, Capnocytophaga spp. is a weak bacteria that rarely harms people; you could be infected with it and never feel sick. However, it can present more risk to people with compromised immune systems or preexisting medical conditions.
Another potential infector is the Pasteurella bacterium, which is found in 50% of all infected dog bites. Usually, Pasteurella simply causes a painful but local infection around the bite wound. In some circumstances, however, it can cause more dangerous symptoms such as swollen glands, painful joints, and difficulty moving. Any of these symptoms should be examined and treated by a medical professional as soon as possible.
Major Infections from Dog Bites
Dog bites can also cause life-threatening diseases, the most well-known and terrifying of which is the rabies virus. Affecting the brain and causing a wide array of dangerous symptoms, rabies is fatal if left untreated. Thankfully, efforts over the past century have reduced the number of domestic animals with rabies to around 7%, and only 1 to 3 cases of human rabies are reported annually. However, statistics are not a safeguard. If you have been bitten by a dog, you should bring the animal in for testing if possible. If the animal tests negative, you will not need rabies treatment. However, if the animal tests positive or you are unable to bring in the animal and determine its rabies status, it’s critical to begin treatment for rabies immediately.
Less prominent but no less dangerous potential infections include MRSA, a powerful strain of Staph bacteria that is unaffected by ordinary antibiotics. MRSA requires extensive medical attention and a battery of unique antibiotics, as it can be as life-threatening as rabies. Dog bites can also transmit tetanus, which can cause paralysis.
Signs of Infection
When a dog bite punctures the skin, you are at an increased risk for the wound to become infected. The signs of infection include pain or soreness around the injury site, redness, swelling, drainage of pus or fluid, or the development of a fever.
Additionally, loss of sensation around the wound, red streaks emanating from the wound, night sweats, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, and the limited use of limbs near the wound are signs of a potentially life-threatening infection.
Preventing Infection from a Dog Bite
To care for a minor bite at home, wash the wound carefully with warm, soapy water, then apply antibiotic cream and cover with a bandage or wrap. Try and keep the injury elevated. If the wound becomes inflamed at any time or you develop a fever, seek immediate medical attention. For deeper wounds, apply firm pressure with a clean cloth to stop the bleeding, and it is recommended you call 911 or visit your local emergency room right away. Dog bites are often deeper than they appear, and it is better to exercise caution when faced with such injuries.
If you were bitten by a dog that you do not know or may appear to have rabies, or if it has been more than 5 years since your last tetanus shot, it is essential to seek immediate medical attention.
If you were attacked by an unfamiliar dog and the owner is present, obtain the owner’s information, even if the attack seems minor. You should also notify animal control or the police to ensure that the owner has taken steps to prevent the dog from attacking someone again.
If you’ve been injured by a dog bite, you may be eligible for compensation. The experienced dog bite attorneys at Mazow | McCullough, P.C. can inform you of your legal options and assist you in pursuing your claim for maximum financial restitution. Call today for a free consultation.