Do I need medical care after a dog bite?

Reasons to seek medical attention after a dog bite. 

Some dog attacks lead to life threatening injuries.  Thankfully, the majority of bites are far less dire.  You may ask yourself whether you really need to seek medical attention after a non-life-threatening attack.  The answer is pretty clearly that you should seek proper medical attention if a dog has bitten you or your child.  Even a puncture wound needs attention.  Whether your wound needs stitches isn’t the only issue to consider. 

In fact, dogs carry several different kinds of bacteria in their mouths.  After a bite, these bacteria are then introduced to the victim of the attack.  Our bodies can often fight off infection, but not always.  In up to 18% of the dog bite wounds, an infection occurs. 

It is very important to properly clean a wound after an attack. 

The first step in the cleaning process can take place immediately after the bite, but following up with the proper medical personnel is very important.  You need to learn the different signs to look for to determine whether your wound is becoming infected, and your doctor will tell you what to look for.  An infection is not obvious at the time of the bite and the symptoms take time to develop. 

In an article posted on April 9, 2018, the Centers for Disease Control highlighted several diseases that can come from a dog bite; these include:  Rabies, Capnocytophaga bacteria, Pasteurella, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and tetanus.  You’ve probably heard of some of these, but not all of them.  Some types of infection are more common than others, but they all require your attention.  Moreover, these infections require proper treatment.

There are other questions to think of which you need to know and your doctor will consider as well.  Is the dog current on its shots?  If the owner is present, you can obtain the answer to this question, but you still have to be careful to ensure that the dog owner is being honest.  You can request vaccination records.  As surprising as it may be, I’ve seen too many situations where people are less than honest, which is very disturbing. 

Another essential question is whether the dog has Rabies?  Odds are that you won’t know the answer to this question immediately.  Thankfully, Rabies in dog bites is not as common, but it can happen. 

Seeking Proper Medical Care

When you seek proper medical care, one of the steps the doctor will take is to report the bite to your county’s animal control or dog warden.  The animal control officers will likely quarantine the dog for several days after the bite, that way the dog can be observed.

What about preventative care before a bite?  Most of us have had a Tetanus shot, but how recently?  That is a question to which you may not know the answer quickly enough.  So many clients call with situations where the bite took place on the weekend or at night.  It isn’t so easy to call your physician’s office to ask if you are up to date on your Tetanus shot.

So the easy answer is that you should seek medical care after a dog bite, even if the bite doesn’t seem that bad.


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