In general, most experts recommend seeking medical care within 24 hours after you've been bitten—especially if the bite has broken the skin. Dog bites can cause medical problems that aren't immediately obvious, such as rabies.
People should seek emergency medical attention for a dog bite if they have:
- uncontrollable bleeding from the wound.
- a fever.
- a red, swollen, or painful wound.
- a wound that feels warm.
- a deep wound and have not had their tetanus shot within the last 5 years.
If left untreated, infection from animal bites could spread and cause serious medical problems. Infection generally develops within 24 to 48 hours.
What to Do
- Wash the bite area with soap and water. If the bite is bleeding, put pressure on it using sterile gauze or a clean cloth.
- If the bleeding has stopped, put antibiotic ointment on the area.
- Cover the area with a bandage or sterile gauze.
- If your child has pain, give acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
If you have been bitten by a wild or stray animal, contact your provider right away. See your provider within 24 hours for any bite that breaks the skin. Call your provider or go to the emergency room if: There is swelling, redness, or pus draining from the wound.
Antibiotic Ointment: Put an antibiotic ointment (Neosporin, Bacitracin) on the bite 3 times a day for 3 days. Call Your Doctor If: Bite looks infected (spreading redness, red streaks, swelling, or tender to touch)
Tetanus immunization — Tetanus is a serious, potentially life-threatening infection that can be transmitted by an animal or human bite. Adults who are bitten should receive a tetanus vaccine (called a tetanus toxoid vaccine) if the most recent tetanus vaccine was greater than 5 years previously.
Do you have to take vaccination against rabies if a vaccinated dog bites you? No, not if the dog is properly vaccinated against rabies and the efficacy of the vaccine is confirmed by laboratory evidence. Otherwise an appropriate post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) should be given.
Most dog bites are minor, and local wound care is the most important step to prevent infection. Wound infection complications after a bite occur 10% to 20% of the time and require antibiotics.
Human or animal bites can become infected or transmit illnesses such as rabies. A tetanus shot may be required if you have not had one within 10 years; if you are not sure when you had your last tetanus shot, and you've been bitten, you should get one within 72 hours after your injury.
Yes, swelling is normal after a dog bite, but increased swelling after the initial first aid can be a sign of infection. Dog bites may be dirty wounds that are prone to infection.
You should always see a primary care provider if you're bitten.” No matter what, make sure you see a doctor within eight hours of a dog bite, he says. Waiting longer raises your infection risk. If you have diabetes or are immunocompromised, your infection risk is even greater.
Visible Pus & Heat Radiating From the Wound
A dog bite that visibly oozes pus or feels hot to the touch is one of the more obvious signs that the wound is infected. In a case like this, the doctor may need to clean and debride the wound, or prescribe a round of antibiotics.
Dog bites to the face tend to be sutured, while those located on less noticeable parts of the body may be left to heal on their own. Sometimes, dog bite wounds need surgery to repair the wound if there is considerable skin damage or skin loss, or if there are associated injuries that need treatment.
While rare, dog bites may also cause Capnocytophaga infections by transmitting the bacteria Capnocytophaga canimorsus. Those infected may experience flu-like symptoms like fever, vomiting, and headache. Some experience rashes too.
The 10-day confinement and observation period for dogs and cats that bite humans has stood the test of time as a way to prevent human rabies. This quarantine period avoids the need to destroy the biting dog or cat in order to test its brain for the rabies virus.
In up to 99% of cases, domestic dogs are responsible for rabies virus transmission to humans. Yet, rabies can affect both domestic and wild animals. It is spread to people and animals through bites or scratches, usually via saliva. Every year, more than 29 million people worldwide receive a post-bite vaccination.
A currently vaccinated dog, cat, or ferret is unlikely to become infected with rabies. When an exposure has occurred, the likelihood of rabies infection varies with the nature and extent of that exposure. Under most circumstances, two categories of exposure — bite and nonbite — should be considered.
Some infections can progress very quickly, result in sepsis, and lead to death within 24 to 72 hours after symptoms start. If you have been bitten by a dog or cat, wash the bite area right away with soap and water, and call your doctor, even if you don't feel sick.
Level 4: One-four deep punctures from a single bite and lacerations or bruising from the dog holding on or shaking. Level 5: Multiple bite incident with more than 2 Level 4 bites. Level 6: Victim death.
Do not scrub or soak the wound. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing. You may cover the wound with a thin layer of petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, and a non-stick bandage. Apply more petroleum jelly and replace the bandage as needed.
If your doctor has closed the wound, cover the bandage with a plastic bag before you take a shower.
Most people will notice a dog bite become close to fully healed within 10 days of the animal attack. Deeper bites will take longer, though, and require initial medical attention, such as stitches. As a dog bite heals, pay attention to see if there are signs of excessive: Redness.