If a dog has bitten you or a loved one, you may want to know if a dog bite is serious. A dog bite is serious when there is a potential for infection, excessive blood loss, or damage to the nerves, ligaments, and muscles. A dog bite wound is especially concerning if the animal has not been vaccinated.
Consequences of Dog Bites Can Be Severe
Dogs are often called “man’s best friend.” Unfortunately, some dogs become aggressive and bite. If a dog bit you or a loved one, you may be wondering whether the bite requires medical care. When it comes to wounds from dogs, it is always better to be safe rather than sorry. Getting the bite wound evaluated by a doctor is the best way to know for sure if the bite is serious.
Many people have been taught that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a person’s mouth. However, experts state that a dog’s mouth contains a tremendous number of pathogens. In fact, USA Today reports that the average dog has over 700 different types of bacteria in its mouth. When a dog bites someone and punctures the skin, bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens from the dog’s mouth can enter the victim’s body. A dog’s mouth may contain bacteria such as:
A dog’s mouth can also transmit dangerous viruses, including the rabies virus. If an infection from a dog bite is not promptly addressed, it can spread to the person’s bloodstream and make them very sick. In extreme cases, a dog bite victim can die from a post-bite infection.
A dog bite can cause severe damage to body tissues, including nerves. Neurapraxia occurs when trauma to nerves causes the nerves to stretch. Signs of neuropraxia include burning and stinging sensations or numbness. Physical therapy may be needed to recover from neurapraxia.
Another type of nerve damage called axonotmesis is often caused when nerves are crushed in a dog attack. Victims suffering from axonotmesis may experience loss of motor function, sensory problems, and even paralysis. Recovering from axonotmesis may take months or years.
The scars left after a dog bite are not only physical. Emotional scarring from the traumatic experience of being attacked by a dog can profoundly impact a victim’s life. Some dog attack victims develop psychological, emotional, and mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and phobias. Mental health counseling and other types of psychological treatment may help alleviate psychological symptoms after a dog attack.
Signs that a Dog Bite Is Serious
If you were bitten by a dog and want to know if a dog bite is serious, the answer is most likely yes. Dog bites can cause dangerous or even deadly medical complications. If you experience any of the following symptoms after a dog attack, get assessed by a medical professional.
Some signs that a dog bite is serious include:
- Extreme pain or pain that worsens over time.
- Uncontrollable bleeding.
- Deep lacerations or puncture wounds.
- Broken bones or internal injuries.
- Loss of function or muscle weakness.
- Signs of infection including redness, red streaks, tenderness, warmth, pus, or oozing fluid from the wound.
- Fever or chills.
- Numbness, tingling, burning, or stinging sensations.
- Objects such as teeth, nails, or debris trapped in the wound.
- The dog is not vaccinated against rabies and other diseases.
- The bite victim has diabetes or another illness where a dog bite can wreak havoc on an already weakened immune system.