According to the American Veterinary Association, over 4 million people face dog bites each year across the United States. Dog bites can range from a minor scratch to a severe wound. As you spend time outdoors or interact with pets, you might encounter a situation where a dog becomes aggressive.
In the event of a dog bite, the first thing that probably comes to mind is whether the injury is severe enough to see a doctor. While every dog bite is unique, understanding the importance of medical attention can ensure you take the best steps for your health and safety.
A dog’s mouth, like any animal’s, harbors bacteria. If a dog bite breaks the skin, these bacteria can enter your body and cause infections. Symptoms might not show immediately, but within hours to days, you might notice redness, swelling, pain or pus. These signs indicate an infection, and you should see a doctor immediately.
If the bite is deep, there’s a risk of tetanus. Tetanus is a toxin produced by a type of bacteria found in soil, dust and animal feces. If you have not had a tetanus shot in the past five years or if you are uncertain about your vaccination status, seeing a doctor becomes important.
Though rare, there’s always a concern about rabies when bitten by an animal. Rabies is a deadly disease that affects the central nervous system. If the dog that bit you was acting strangely or if its vaccination status is unknown, you need to consult with a doctor as soon as possible.
Proper wound care
Cleaning a dog bite is different from cleaning a regular wound. Proper care ensures the wound heals without complications. A doctor can provide guidance on cleaning the wound, applying antibiotic ointments and dressing it to prevent infections.
While not every dog bite requires a trip to the doctor, it’s better to err on the side of caution. Always prioritize your health and safety, and when in doubt, consult with a healthcare professional.