A bite from a dog is a traumatic experience for anybody – but the initial wounds may just be the start of your problems.
No matter what the size of the bite, the risk of an infection in the days following an attack is very real. Dogs’ mouths can contain all kinds of bacteria, causing everything from rabies and sepsis to tetanus and capnocytophaga.
How can you know if a bite is infected?
It’s important to understand that even a relatively “minor” dog bite can become infected. Because of the way a dog’s teeth are shaped, puncture wounds are a distinct possibility – and that can drive the bacteria from the dog’s mouth deep into your body. While some victims may be lucky enough to avoid infection, there are no guarantees.
With that in mind, look out for the following:
- Redness and swelling around the wound: Inflammation is your body’s natural response to trauma, but any redness and swelling associated with the bite should quickly fade. If it persists or gets worse over the days following the bite, that’s a clear sign of trouble.
- Heat radiating from the wound: The human body releases vasoactive chemicals to increase blood flow to a wound so that more antibodies and white blood cells are available to fight the infection. That can make the wound warm to the touch.
- Pus or oozing from the wound: Any sign of fluid seeping from the wound, whether it’s discolored or not, is a cause for concern. If the fluid turns yellow or green, that’s a clear sign of infection. (The discolored fluid is due to dead white blood cells and bacteria.)
- Red streaks: If you see any “red lines” that appear to be extending outward from the wound, that’s a cause for immediate concern. The infection may be moving through your lymphatic system, which means you can easily end up with blood poisoning.
Injuries from dog bites can become very serious, especially for children, the elderly and others with weak or compromised immune systems. It’s always best to seek immediate medical attention right away. You can worry about obtaining fair compensation for your medical bills, lost wages and other damages later.