What Happens if a Dog Bite Gets Infected
Dog Bite

No matter the size, all dogs have the potential to bite. Dog bites can get infected, especially if you do not wash the wound afterward. When a dog bites a person, their teeth pierce the skin and can transfer bacteria from the dog’s mouth to the person. The bacteria can cause infections like tetanus, rabies, or sepsis. If left untreated, the infection can become severe and even life-threatening. It is essential to seek immediate medical attention when a dog has bitten you due to the risk of the wound getting infected. Most dog bites happen on the person’s hand or arm and carry a higher risk of infection. Even after medical treatment, it is important to keep an eye on your bite wounds, especially if it is a deep wound or if the dog is a stray. You can still be at risk of infection. If the infection spreads to the rest of your body, you will need immediate medical treatment such as antibiotics or vaccinations.

When To See a Doctor and Diagnosis

A person should see their doctor for a dog bite immediately. The doctor may ask questions about the incident, what kind of dog it was, and other information pertinent to the bite. A doctor will then perform a physical examination of the wound to look for signs of infection. If the doctor has concerns about more severe infections, they may order additional tests. For example, they may order an X-ray to examine the bones for signs of infection, or a blood test to check for signs of sepsis. If they are concerned that the person may be at risk of rabies, they will treat it immediately with prophylactic antibiotics.

Dog Bite Infection Symptoms

Even if you have washed your dog bite, the wound is still at risk for infection. Some minor injuries may be treated at home, but it is always best to see a doctor following any dog bite, big or small. If you notice redness, swelling, inflammation, or pain around the site of your dog bite, it is important to notify your doctor immediately, especially if these symptoms remain after 24 hours. Other signs that can indicate that your wound has become infected are:

  • Blisters around the bite wound within hours of the bite
  • Redness, swelling, draining pus, or pain at the bite wound
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea and/or stomach pain
  • Vomiting
  • Headache and/or confusion
  • Muscle or joint pain

Complications That Can Result From a Serious Dog Attack

Due to the bacteria present in a dog’s mouth, even a seemingly uncomplicated bite could lead to major health problems. The rabies virus or bacterial infections from Capnocytophaga can be transferred from dogs to humans through saliva- and in the case of Capnocytophagaillness can even result from proximity to an infected dog. A dog bite wound is a potentially life-threatening injury, with complications that may include:

  • Broken bones
  • Scarring
  • Infection
  • Gangrene
  • Nerve damage
  • Paralysis
  • Amputation
  • Sepsis
  • Death

If left untreated, the bacterial infection from a dog bite might spread to other areas of the body and lead to sepsis, which can become fatal. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), three out of 10 people die from a serious dog bite infection.

Can You Sue for Damages After a Dog Bite Incident and Infection?

An individual who sustains a dog bite may be able to file a claim for their injuries and damages under the law. The laws on dog bites and liability vary in each state. However, in most states, dog bites are strict liability cases. Strict liability is when the owner of a dog is automatically liable for the injuries caused by their dog if they bite and cause injuries outside of a few exceptions. Exceptions to dog bite liability statutes often apply in cases where an individual provoked the dog or was on the property of another without their consent. Some states may have first bite allowances where the statute requires that an owner be aware of the dog’s vicious tendencies before becoming liable for the harm the dog causes. However, in several states, any time a dog attacks and causes an injury through a bite to a victim, the owner is responsible for the damage the pet causes. While a lawsuit may seem like what might make the most sense for seeking compensation as a dog bite accident victim, the reality is that in most cases, a victim can seek money through an insurance claim. Many property insurance policies, such as homeowner’s and renter’s insurance, cover dog bites to guests on the insured’s property.

What Compensation Might You Recover After a Dog Bite Injury?

Establishing the damages of a dog bite injury, including an infection, may be more difficult than expected. Figuring out what you can claim as part of a dog bite damages insurance claim can be challenging. First, insurance companies will not tell you what you can claim as a loss. Furthermore, having the right to file a claim does not mean the insurance company will approve the claim or pay a fair value for your losses. Dog bite lawyers know the laws that apply in each state and the process of filing a claim for you for the maximum damages available. Should you decide to hire a dog bite lawyer, they will help you calculate your damages and gather the evidence necessary to prove those damages through a claim or in court if necessary.

Examples of damages that may be available in your dog bite claim include:

  • Medical expenses for treating your dog bite, any infection you develop, or other complications
  • Income losses, including future impacts on your income and earnings
  • Compensation for your pain and suffering, including mental and emotional distress and your physical pain

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