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Should you see the doctor after a dog bite?

On Behalf of | Aug 29, 2023 | Dog And Animal Bites |

The CDC reports that dogs bite over 4.5 million people every year. Dog bites are not only painful, but they can also pose a risk to your health. While some might dismiss a minor nip or scratch as harmless, there is more to consider than just the immediate physical damage. Bacteria, infections and possible long-term complications can result from these seemingly simple injuries.

You are likely familiar with the old adage, “It is better to be safe than sorry.” This is particularly true when it comes to injuries caused by animals. Whether it is a minor scratch or a deeper puncture wound, there is always the potential for complications.

Risks of dog bites

Dog mouths, like human mouths, contain bacteria. When a dog bites you, there is a chance that these bacteria can transfer into the wound. Even a minor break in the skin can introduce bacteria like Pasteurella, Staphylococcus and Streptococcus. These bacteria can lead to infections, which might manifest as swelling, redness, pain or pus. If left untreated, these infections can become severe.

Another concern is the risk of rabies. While rabies is rare in domesticated dogs in many countries, it is still a potential danger, especially if an unfamiliar or stray dog bites you. Rabies is a deadly virus that affects the nervous system. Early symptoms might be similar to the flu but can escalate to delirium, hallucinations and paralysis. Getting timely treatment is essential if there is any doubt about the rabies status of the dog.

When to see a doctor

After a dog bite, clean the wound immediately with soap and water. This helps to reduce the risk of infection. However, you should see a doctor if:

  • The wound is deep or large.
  • You cannot stop the bleeding.
  • The bite is on your face, hands, feet or joints.
  • There is significant pain, redness or swelling.
  • You are unsure if the dog has a current vaccine against rabies.

Additionally, if you notice signs of infection or if the wound does not seem to be healing well after a couple of days, seek medical attention.

While not all dog bites require a visit to the doctor, it is important to be aware of the potential risks. By understanding when to seek medical care and taking prompt action, you can protect your health and ensure a swift recovery.

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