How Dangerous is a Dog Bite? (16 Questions & Answers)


How Dangerous is a Dog Bite

Dogs are the most common pets and have been in contact with humans for years. In such a close relationship, accidents are bound to happen. Your dog can accidently bite or scratch you. This may seem harmless but could in fact be life-threatening.

A dog’s saliva contains a lot of harmful bacteria. This puts the bite wound at high risk of infection. In a lot of cases, the infected wound is often severe and may require hospitalization. Apart from a potentially severe infections, dog bites may also result in deadly diseases such as rabies and tetanus.

The following article looks at how dangerous dog bites are and how dog bites are treated.

Why are Dog Bites So Dangerous?

More than half of all dog bites introduce bacteria to the body. When a dog’s teeth bites and compresses your tissue, its smaller teeth tear into your skin leaving an open jagged wound. This wound may get infected and the infection may end up becoming severe. You’ll need antibiotics or hospitalization to minimize the risks of infection.

You should always seek medical attention as soon as possible. Taking no action increases the risk of infection. If you are immunocompromised or have diabetes, you’ll have a greater risk of infection. More so, feral and unvaccinated dogs are potential carriers of deadly diseases such as rabies and tetanus.

Can You Get Tetanus from a Dog Bite?

Tetanus is a serious disease that can lay dormant in the human body for years before spreading regularly. Although getting tetanus from a dog bite is rare, it is not unheard of. It is important to seek medical treatment immediately after a dog attack.

You should also try to find the dog’s owner to ascertain if the dog’s inoculations are up to date. Dirty dog bite wounds put you at higher risk of getting tetanus.

Do You Need a Tetanus Shot After a Dog Bite?

In case of a dog bite that has broken the skin, most doctors will recommend a tetanus shot. The shot may be necessary especially if you have not had a tetanus shot within the past five years.

Although transmission of tetanus from dogs is rare, tetanus is a dangerous disease with a high mortality rate. Administering the tetanus shot is a safety procedure that helps minimize the risk of a possible infection.

How Long After a Dog Bite Do You Need a Tetanus Shot?

After cleaning up the dog bite wound, you will still need to seek medical attention immediately after being bitten. If the doctor recommends a tetanus shot, it is recommended that you get it within 48 hours of the bite. This allows the vaccine to be more effective.

Should I Get Rabies Vaccine After Dog Bite?

You should see your doctor right away after a dog bite especially if you are not aware of the dog’s inoculations. Postexposure vaccination can help treat the infection and limit the risk of getting rabies.

Can I Take Rabies Injection After 1 Day of Dog Bite?

Luckily, even though rabies is a deadly disease, it is treatable. If you are bitten by a rabid dog, you should go for the injection as soon as possible. The rabies vaccine yields good results because the virus works slowly. For the vaccine to work properly, it is recommended that it be administered within 6 days of infection.

However, the vaccine is still generally effective when administered up to 10 days after infection. If you are at a high risk of contracting rabies or you are a vet and work closely with dogs, you could routinely take preventive rabies vaccination as a pre-exposure precaution. 

Can I Take Tetanus After 48 Hours?

If you have gone for more than five years without getting a tetanus shot, you should get one within 48 hours. This is because most people show a decrease in tetanus immunity after 5 years since their last tetanus shot.

If you get an injury, you should get a booster shot within 48 hours especially if your immunization is out of date. If you have high-risk injuries and they are not fully immunized, a tetanus antitoxin may be recommended.

For people with high-risk injuries who are not fully immunized, tetanus antitoxin may also be recommended. If you do not receive proper treatment, the toxin’s effect on respiratory muscles can interfere with breathing. If this happens, you may die of suffocation.

Can Dog Teeth Scratch Cause Rabies?

Bites are the most common way through which rabies is transmitted. This, however, is not the only mode of transmission. Rabies can also be transmitted through contact with the saliva of an infected dog, licks, or scratches.

A dog teeth scratch can therefore cause rabies. The virus is transmitted when the dog’s saliva comes into contact with any open wound or mucus membranes such as the nose, eye, or mouth. Thus, you should seek medical attention if you suspect that the dog is rabid.

Do All Dog Bites Cause Rabies?

Dogs are responsible for most of the human rabies cases. This, however, does not mean that all dogs cause rabies. The dog has to be infected with rabies first for it to be able to transmit the virus. Although not all dogs have rabies, all dog bites should be treated unless you are completely sure that the dog has received a rabies vaccination in the past year.

Early Signs of Dog Bite Infection

When a dog bite pierces your skin, bacteria from the dog’s mouth can be transferred into your body causing an infection. The infection can be around the bite area but in some cases, the infection may spread to other parts of your body.

Some of the early signs and symptoms of a dog bite infection include redness and swelling around the wound, discharge from the wound, a warm sensation around the bite area, experiencing difficulty in moving the bit area, and experiencing pain that lasts for more than 24 hours. If the infection has spread to other parts of the body, you may experience fever and night sweats.

Rabies Symptoms in Humans After Dog Bite

Rabies is a serious disease caused by a virus and is usually transmitted by a bite from an infected animal. The first symptoms of rabies can appear from a few days to several years after the dog bite.

At first, you’ll experience an itching, prickling, or tingling around the bite area. You may also experience flu-like symptoms such as general fatigue, headache, nausea, and muscle aches.

After a few days, you’ll start developing neurological symptoms. These include agitation, excessive movements, aggressiveness and irritability, muscle spasms, convulsions or seizures, hallucinations, confusion, paralysis, and sensitivity to bright lights. You’ll also produce a lot of saliva and develop a fear of choking which will result in you avoiding water.

Is a Dog Bite a Puncture Wound?

There are several types of dog bites. Some bites are light and the teeth will barely get through your skin. Some bites, however, are serious and even deadly. The number of puncture wounds caused by a dog bite vary depending on the severity of the bite.

You could get one to four shallow puncture wounds. You could also get one to four puncture wounds from a single bite where at least one puncture wound is deep.

You could also get deep puncture wounds from multiple bites. In case of a puncture wound, you should seek appropriate medical care to eliminate the chances of getting long-term complications due to a dog bite.

How to Clean a Dog Bite Wound (First Aid Treatment)

Managing a dog bite as soon as possible is important as it helps prevent possible bacterial infection from the bite. You should tend to the injury right away while assessing the wound to determine the severity of the bite.

Minor dog bite wounds can be treated by washing the injury right away with soap and warm water. The area should be cleaned thoroughly. You should let the bite area under warm water to get rid of the bacteria. You should then apply antibiotic cream to the wound and then wrap it with a clean bandage.

If the bite wound is deep and serious, you should try to stop the bleeding by firmly pressing a dry and clean cloth against the wound. You should then seek medical attention right away.

Do All Dog Bites Need Antibiotics?

Antibiotics help to reduce the risk of infection due to dog bites. Antibiotic prophylaxis is usually recommended for moderate to severe dog bite wounds of the hands, feet, genital area, or face.

Bites involving the bone, tendon, or joints leading to tissue damage are also treated with antibiotic prophylaxis. If you are bitten, you should always seek medical attention since in some cases, you may have to be hospitalized and get intravenous antibiotics.

How Long Does a Dog Bite Take to Heal?

The time it takes for a dog bite to heal depends on the severity of the dog bite, how you take care of the wound, and if you have complications such as diabetes which may delay your healing process.

Depending on your bite, it may take as little as a week or as long as several months. Taking good care of your bite will help speed up the healing process. Seeking medical attention will also minimize the risk of you developing complications later.

Can I Take Rabies Vaccine Without Dog Bite?

You can take the rabies vaccine without dog bite. People who work in animal shelters, forest rangers, and veterinarians are usually vaccinated against rabies since they are constantly in contact with different dogs and could contract rabies from an infected animal.  A booster or vaccination is given every two years to protect you against a possible bite from a rabid animal.

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