Dogs are considered to be man’s best friend, but now and then, between those playful sprints and tail wagging, it could happen. You might get bitten by your dog while playing with him or maybe get attacked adventitiously by a mutt in the street. In any case, dog bites can lead to some severe complications.
According to the Center for Disease Control, about 4.7 million Americans experience dog bites every year, and one out of every five of these cases result in an injury that requires medical attention. Depending on the severity of it, a dog bite can be classified as one of the following 5 levels:
Also referred to as an air bite, there is no contact of the dog’s teeth with your skin. This is often a warning signal from the dog.
Contact of the skin occurs with the teeth but there is no puncture wound.
Shallow puncture pounds at the site of the dog bite. These wounds are shallower than the length of the dog’s teeth.
Escalating in severity, these bites are deep wounds with visible tears and gashes on the skin. They are the result of an especially aggressive attack in which the dog shakes its head back and forth while biting down on the skin.
Multiple bites with deep puncture wounds. These correlate to multiple attacks.
Depending on the severity of the dog bite, immediate care should be applied to the wounds. Assess the wound quickly, if there are no puncture wounds, wash the bitten area with soap as soon as possible. If there are puncture wounds, apply pressure on the wounds using a clean cloth until the bleeding stops and then wash the wound to flush out bacteria as much as possible.
The table below shows a breed-wise breakdown of fatal dog attacks in 2019. According to Dogsbite.org, Pit bulls have been the most vicious of canines, causing many deaths.
In the case of puncture wounds, it’s best to consult a doctor as the main concern with a dog bite is the risk of infection. Bites on hands and feet are more prone to infections than other areas. Nevertheless, dog bites can result in complications that, if left untreated, can be fatal.
Capnocytophaga is a type of bacteria found in the saliva of dogs. It can infect the wounds from a dog bite and result in several other issues such as gangrene and kidney failure if left untreated. The symptoms associated with a capnocytophaga infection are:
- Headache and fever
- Joint pain
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Oozing of fluids from the wounds
- Blistering, redness, and swelling around the wound
Symptoms can appear in between 1 to 14 days of the dog attack. Antibiotics are prescribed for the treatment of this infection.
Sepsis is a severe reaction to an infection and it can be fatal. Symptoms of sepsis include high or low body temperature, daytime sleepiness, confusion, and severe pain. Sepsis is treated with antibiotics and intravenous fluids.
A person can be infected with rabies if the dog that bit them has rabies. Rabies is a fatal infection and needs immediate medical attention. The early symptoms of rabies include:
- Headache, fever, and flu
- Itching around the bite
Rabies can be treated with a post-infection vaccine too, but it is crucial to seek medical help immediately after the attack to minimize the effects of infection.
Tetanus is a serious infection caused by bacteria that may invade your body after a dog bite. The bacteria produce a toxin that results in painful muscle contractions and spasms. Another name for tetanus infection is “lockjaw”, as it causes the neck and jaw muscles of the infected person to lock, making it difficult to swallow. Other symptoms include cramps, muscle stiffness, seizures, headaches, and fever.
A dog bite can be playfully harmless if it doesn’t cause your skin to break and no contact occurs with the teeth of the animal. At the same time, it can lead to serious complications as there is a risk of infection associated with it. The bitten area should be washed immediately after the attack with soap to wash out bacteria, but some infections like tetanus can invade your body with even a scrape to the skin. Carefully assess the bitten area to see if there are any scrapes or puncture wounds. Immediately seek medical attention if there are any scratches or wounds to minimize the risk of infection.
The dog that attacked you might need to be examined too, so ask the owner if they have the vaccination records for the animal. If the bite was inflicted by a stray dog, call animal control so that the dog can be traced, examined, and vaccinated if needed.
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