Do Dog Bites Pose a Serious Health Risk?


Over 4.7 million people are bitten by a dog every year. About half of these bites happen to children, typically those between the ages of 5 and 9. While just about any dog has the potential to bite you, more often than not people are bitten by dogs they know. Whether it's your own dog or a neighbor's dog, statistics reveal that the dogs you spend the most time with are simply more likely to bite since you are around them more often. Even if you think a dog is trained, there are times dogs are likely to bite, such as when they are made to feel uncomfortable or perceive a threat to themselves or their family.

What to do after a dog bite

According to the Centers for Disease Control, over one-fifth of dog bites cause an injury that absolutely requires prompt medical attention. The attention of a medical doctor is advised at any time a dog bite penetrates the skin. A doctor may ask several questions about the dog, including whether you know the owner and if the dog is up-to-date on all vaccinations.

First aid can treat most dog bites, but if the dog's tooth penetrated the skin, this type of injury can lead to a serious bacterial infection. You must visit an emergency room promptly if you notice any kind of redness or swelling around the wound. You will need antibiotics to treat infection or run the risk of the infection spreading throughout your body.

How harmful is an infection from a dog bite?

Dog bites can lead to life-threatening infections if they are not caught early and treated. Persons with diabetes and other conditions may be more at risk of developing an infection following a dog bite. The most dangerous infections from dog bites are pasteurellosis, staphylococcal and rabies. The first two infections are not only highly threatening, they are also common as the bacteria live naturally in the mouths of dogs, particularly in their saliva. It is impossible to know which dog carries pasteurellosis or staphylococcal bacteria.

Rabies are more likely to come from wild dogs which have not been vaccinated. The rabies infection can be fatal, which is why if you must seek emergency care if you are not sure whether the dog has been vaccinated, as required by law. Unfortunately, symptoms do not show themselves until it is too late. Symptoms can include decreased awareness, delirium, fever and chills, paralysis of the limbs and difficulty swallowing.

Another potential infection from a dog bite is the Capnocytophaga infection. Although this infection is extremely rare, it is almost always fatal because the bite mark is small and unalarming, leading most people to conclude the bite was harmless. Infections from the Capnocytophaga canimorsus organism cause blood poisoning. Symptoms include fever and chills, headache, and red or swollen patches around the bite.

In most cases, the owner of the animal that bit you can be held liable for your injuries. With an attentive and dedicated lawyer like James P. Vasquez, you may be able to recover damages for hospital bills and lost wages that resulted from the dog bite. Call The Law Offices of James P. Vasquez, PC at (862) 247-8711 for a free consultation.