3 Dangerous Dog Bite Infections You Should Watch Out For

January 31, 2024by Cassandra Nguy

Once a dog’s teeth punctures the human skin, there’s a chance the wound may get infected. A dog bite infection may transmit abnormal pathogens from the saliva into the wound and may be lethal if not properly treated. The three dangerous dog bite infections to be aware of are:

  • Rabies
  • Staph and Strep
  • Cellulitis

Even though only 10-20% of dog bites result in infection, the majority of incidents come from the victim’s family or neighbors. A sizable amount of dog bite victims are children.

“The risk of infection after a bite is 10–20%, and about 30–60% of the infections are of mixed aerobic-anaerobic origin.”

Rothe K, Tsokos M, Handrick W. Animal and Human Bite Wounds

A dog bite can range from minor scratches to immediate hospitalization, so don’t underestimate its emotional and financial costs. Don’t hesitate to call an attorney to cover your damages after a dog bite. Your losses may qualify for coverage depending on your case.

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Can a Dog Bite Become Infected?

A dog bite can become infected, depending on how deep the teeth punctured the body. The risk of contamination would depend on the nature and area of the wound, the patient’s medical history, and the species of the dog. Judging by the table below, getting bitten by the hand has the highest infection rate.

According to NIH studies, the highest risk for infection is in “Deep or contaminated wounds, wounds with extensive tissue destruction and poor perfusion, wounds on the hands, feet, face, and genitals, and wounds involving bones, joints, and tendons”. The human body has a hard time responding to infection in these areas.

Body PartInfection Rate
Hand18-36%
Arm17-20%
Leg7-15%
Face4-11%

According to Rehabilitation of the Hand and Upper Extremity, the hands and fingers are the most common areas for dog bite infections and have the most complications. Bites between the hand joints and bones risk infection because their fluid allows space for infectious bacteria to roam freely.

Common Signs of a Dog Bite Infection

Signs of a dog bite infection include:

  • Redness, pain, and swelling around the wound
  • Purulent drainage in the injury (yellow, white, or brown fluid with a thick texture)
  • Discomfort, fatigue, chills, or fever
  • Unable to move limbs or body
  • Hard to breathe
  • Trembling or lack of strength (muscle weakness)
  • Loss of nerves
  • Lump(s) or stiffness on the bite

If you show any signs of these symptoms above, go to the hospital for medical care. Your wound may have been infected with one of the following diseases and needs immediate medical attention.

1. Rabies

A 3D visualization of rabies.

Rabies is a viral infectious disease transmitted through scratch or bite from a rabid animal. Ways to prevent this is having your pet get a rabies vaccine to prevent such occurrence. Human rabies infection has a 99% fatality rate and kills 30,000 to 50,000 people a year in developing countries.

Despite its fatality rate, rabies is entirely preventable through proper vaccination or treating symptoms in its truly early stages. Any indication of dog bite symptoms deserve treatment just for rabies alone. 

2. Staph and Strep

Strep 3D Visualization

Staphylococcus is a common bacteria found in the skin and nostrils on mammals, especially dogs. Staph is very contagious and can spread from person to person. Symptoms include:

  • Red lumps
  • Swollen skin
  • Sores and blisters
  • Pus
  • Nausea and fever
  • Excessive vomiting
  • Abdomen or skin pain

Streptococcus is also a common dog bite infection that comes as two alternate types (A and B). Strep infection causes a scratchy or sore throat that can be very painful. Symptoms include

  • Pain when swallowing
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck

Chances of getting strep throat are unlikely as it’s rare for dogs to carry the bacterium. There are modern medical procedures to handle dog bite infections, but Staph and Strep are known to carry antibiotic resistances.

3. Cellulitis

Cellulitis is another common bacteria infection that causes redness, swelling, and pain in the infected wound. This occurs when bacteria, particularly Staph and Strep, enters the body through an opening in the skin. It usually manifests within 24 hours of the bite and can be life-threatening amongst adults and children if not properly taken care of.

How to Protect Yourself From a Dog Bite Infection

A dog can be a friendly pet companion, but it can be dangerous if the dog’s temperament is unpredictable and aggressive. If you get a dog in the family, choose one that’s good-tempered, especially if children are around.

  • Stay away from unfamiliar dogs, and never leave children alone with a dog, especially an unfamiliar one.
  • Whenever you approach a dog, do so slowly and let the dog come to you.
  • When a dog acts aggressively, do not run away or scream since that would alarm the dog. Always stay calm and move away slowly while avoiding eye contact.

It’s better to know these tips to protect yourself from a possible dog bite. If you get bit in the process, follow the self-treatment points below and seek medical help. After getting treated, you can find an attorney to help you file a claim and get compensated for your pain and suffering.

Self-Treatment Options to Prevent Infections

If you were involved in a dog bite accident, you must take care of the wound before it gets severely infected.

  1. Wash the wound gently with soap and warm water for a few minutes.
  2. Remove debris like teeth, hair, or dirt using the running water.
  3. Gently squeeze the wound for a small amount of blood to drip unless the injury is already bleeding – this will lessen the chance of an infection.
  4. Firmly place a clean cloth or dressing onto the wound in case it’s bleeding heavily.
  5. Gently pat it dry and wrap it in a new dressing after cleaning the injury. Don’t wrap the wound in a tourniquet unless trained to do so.
  6. Take anti-pain relievers if necessary. Young children should not take pain relievers unless specified it’s safe to do so.
  7. Go to the doctor or hospital as soon as possible.

Don’t wait to go to the doctor and seek medical attention immediately. Infections are prone to happen among dog bites, and it’s better to get that looked at within 24 hours before it’s too late.

What if a Lump Forms Under My Skin After a Dog Bite?

Go to the doctor if you find a lump forming under your skin after a dog bite. A lump could form even after the wound has healed, and waiting to see the doctor is inconvenient. Before you visit your doctor, follow these two things:

  1. Observe the size of the lump on a day-to-day basis to see if it’s growing
  2. Take photos of the bump each day

See a doctor immediately if you notice a significant change (the bump changes color or has grown too much).

Abscesses After a Dog Bite

An abscess after a dog bite is like a pocket filled with pus, dead tissue, and white blood cells. There could be warmth, redness, or pain, which happens after a dog bite wound has healed. They form when the body’s immune system fights the bacteria when it enters the injury.

Dog Bite Hematomas

Hematoma forms when the dog bite has injured a blood vessel – a cluster of blood outside a blood vessel. It will feel like a firm bump and appear bruised. Seek medical advice if the lump feels painful.

Treating Your Injuries May Be Expensive

Treatment is necessary after a dog bite to prevent infections. And yet, the downside is the economic damages. These include hospital bills, rehabilitation expenses, lost wages, and more. Also, you’ll have to face non-economic consequences such as pain, trauma, and inconvenience.

Therefore, you must find an attorney to help with your claim and get compensated for your loss. You should not be responsible for sustaining a loss that wasn’t your fault. In case your dog bit you, you may need to use your health and homeowner insurance to cover your losses.

Find an Attorney to Mitigate Your Costs After a Dog Bite

Find an attorney to help mitigate your costs after a dog bite and get compensated for your loss. LegalASAP’s got you covered in finding an experienced attorney specializing in dog bites who can help you with your case.

We understand that it’s mentally and physically painful to handle a claim on your own after sustaining an injury. LegalASAP would like to help you with your case, so call us at 888-927-3080 or fill out a free short consultation form so one of our agents can reach out as soon as possible.

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Cassandra Nguy

Cassandra Tran Nguy is a legal writer living in Los Angeles, California. She graduated cum laude from California State University, Northridge with a B.A. in English Creative Writing and a minor in Marketing. Visit her online profile at linkedin.com

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