When you’re attacked or bitten by a dog, you may face scratches, tears, lacerations, and a range of other wounds. In some cases, those wounds are the extent of your injuries, but in other situations, complications can occur. Here are the most common complications you’re likely to encounter after a dog attack, as well as links to sources with more information.
Worldwide, 55,000 to 70,000 people die from rabies every year. While not all those deaths are due to dog attacks, experts estimate that 10 million people get rabies from dogs every year, and another 45,000 die from this infection. In the United States, the numbers are much lower thanks to vaccinations, but the risk is still there.
Dogs can transmit rabies with a single bite, and if you believe you’ve been affected, you need to seek medical help immediately. Typically, rabies symptoms show up in two to 10 days, but once the symptoms appear, the risk of survival is slim. If your dog isn’t inoculated against rabies and they get bitten by another dog who may be rabid, you should take your dog to the vet immediately.
Rabies isn’t the only infection you can get from a dog attack, and in fact, other infections are quite common with dog bites because the teeth go deep into the skin. That allows bacteria to get into the epidermis, potentially leading to infections. To reduce your risk of infection, you should always clean your wounds. Never try to close your wounds using skin repair tape, as that can lock in bacteria. Beyond that, you should be aware of the signs of infection such as pain, redness, swelling, and warmth around the site of the wound.
The most common infections from dog bites include Pasteurella, staphylococcus, and streptococcus. Anaerobes, which require an oxygen-free environment to thrive, are also present in about 75% of dog bites, and they can lead to infections as well. However, the risk of infection varies depending on multiple factors.
When you’ve been bitten by a dog, tetanus is also a possibility. Dogs can carry tetanus, but the dog who bites you doesn’t necessarily need to be infected. You can also contract tetanus if the clostridium tetani bacteria is on your skin or in the area near you and it gets into your wound. Unfortunately, doctors don’t routinely check for tetanus when you get treated for a dog attack, so you may need to ask for a test.
When you experience something painful such as a dog attack, your brain essentially goes into safety mode. After the attack, every time you encounter a dog or even just a similar situation, your brain shouts “Danger! Danger!” and you often get filled with a sense of fear. On a basic level, that is your body’s way of keeping you safe.
However, sometimes the psychological effects of dog bites can go far beyond this cognitive safety net. After some dog attacks, you may suffer serious mental distress including but certainly not limited to post-traumatic stress disorder.
In severe dog attacks, a few stitches often aren’t enough to repair the damage, and in these situations, you may need cosmetic surgery. With intense wounds, you may need a skin graft or reconstructive surgery. Even with small scars, laser skin repair or similar cosmetic procedures may be necessary. Similarly, if a dog bites off a body part, such as an ear, you may also need to get help from a cosmetic surgeon.
When you suffer complications after a dog attack, that can substantially increase the cost of your medical care, and it can cause intense pain and suffering. To get help covering these expenses and to seek compensation for your pain, you may want to contact a dog bite attorney. At Mazow | McCullough, PC, we can help you navigate this complex issue. Contact us at (978) 744-8000 for a no-cost case evaluation today.