While millions of households own dogs throughout the United States, dog bites may seem like a relatively rare occurrence. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),1 about 4.5 million individuals are bitten by dogs every year in the U.S. In many situations, the emotional shock of the dog bite is worse than the physical wounds, which can be relatively minor bruises or scratches. However, other dog bite victims may sustain deep cuts, puncture wounds, fractured bones, or muscle tears as a result of the incident.
Most people with serious dog bite injuries seek medical treatment, though individuals with seemingly minor injuries may simply bandage their wound and go on with their lives. However, any time a dog bite breaks the skin–even if it seems minor–there is a risk that a serious infection may develop. In fact, the CDC reports that one of five dog bite wounds will become infected. Infection can be a serious and even deadly complication of a dog bite and can lead to the need for extensive medical treatment. Because dog bite infections can be so dangerous and costly if they go untreated, it is always best to have your dog bite checked out by a medical professional even if the wound does not seem serious.
Why Infections Develop
Whenever a dog bite breaks through the skin, bacteria has a path into the body through the wound. Bacteria that penetrates the skin can be from the dog’s mouth, your own skin, or from the outside environment. In shallow wounds, proper and thorough cleaning of the wound may be enough to prevent infection. However, canine teeth can lead to wounds that are narrow but surprisingly deep and most people do not realize how deep their wound may be. Bacteria can travel down and live in the bottom part of the wound, which can make it very difficult to sufficiently clean out the bacteria. Furthermore, if the top layer of the wound on the skin heals, bacteria will be trapped inside the deeper part of the wound. In such a situation, you may believe that your wound is healed while an infection may be spreading below the surface.
Signs and Symptoms of Infections
Because you cannot actually detect bacteria living in your dog bite wound, you should always be aware of the different signs and symptoms that an infection may have developed. Such symptoms can include:
- Redness, tenderness, or swelling at the wound site;
- Pus or liquid spilling from the wound;
- Weak or stiff muscles;
- Tingling or loss of sensation;
- Fever and/or chills;
- Respiratory difficulties.
If you experience any of the above symptoms or anything else out of the ordinary following your dog bite, you should immediately seek a medical evaluation. A doctor can perform blood tests and x-rays to diagnose an infection. You may be prescribed antibiotics or require a tetanus shot. If the infection has already progressed, you may need to be admitted to the hospital. If left untreated, however, your infection may spread into your soft tissue or bones or sepsis may develop, which can be fatal.
Because of the risks of infection, it is best to be on the safe side and visit an emergency room or doctor as soon as you can after a dog bite. Medical professionals will know how to properly clean the wound to remove bacteria and can advise you on how to care for the wound to prevent additional bacteria from entering the body.
Recovering for your Losses
Dog bites can result in many different complications, including infection, scarring, disfigurement, and even permanent impairment. Many victims of severe dog bites require emergency medical attention, hospitalization, reparative or restorative surgery, medications, and more. Not surprisingly, dog bite victims and their families can incur substantial financial losses. These are in addition to any physical or emotional suffering that resulted from the traumatic experience and the serious injuries. Fortunately, if your dog bite injuries were severe, Pennsylvania law2 allows you to hold the dog bite owner strictly liable for the actions of the dog and seek compensation from the owner for all of your losses.
Consult with a Philadelphia Dog Bite Lawyer Today
If you incurred medical expenses and other losses as a result of your dog bite, you should not hesitate to discuss your rights and options with an experienced Philadelphia dog bite attorney. At The Levin Firm, we have represented the rights of many dog bite victims, so please call us for free at 215-825-5183 to learn more about how we can help you today.