Can I get a disease or infection from a dog bite?

nurse bandaging a patient's hand and wristAbout 20 percent of people who are bitten by dogs will require medical attention related to the bite. While treatment may be needed for bleeding, broken bones, or nerve damage, it can also prevent infection and the spread of disease. Dog bites can transmit harmful bacteria or viruses into the victim’s bloodstream, placing the victim at risk of debilitating illnesses or even death.

Infections That May Spread From Dogs to Humans After a Bite

A dog’s mouth is a breeding ground for bacteria, some of which can cause infection in humans. It is a good idea to wash dog bite wounds with soap and water and cover them with a clean bandage. If the wound itches, appears swollen, refuses to heal, becomes red or hot to the touch, or results in a fever, you should see a doctor immediately to check for:

  • Rabies. Although the risk of getting rabies from a dog in the United States has dropped dramatically, it is still a concern because it is almost always fatal once symptoms appear. If you are bitten by an unknown dog or a dog that is acting strangely, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible to receive a rabies vaccination.
  • Tetanus. Tetanus is a toxin that can cause dog bite victims to suffer rigid paralysis, especially if they have suffered a deep bite wound and have not had a tetanus shot in the past five years.
  • Pasteurella. Pasteurella bacteria may cause a wound to become red or extremely painful, but can also result in swollen glands, swelling in the joints, and mobility problems as the infection spreads.
  • MRSA. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a deadly staph infection that is resistant to antibiotic treatments. Animals may be carriers of MRSA without showing any symptoms. Once it enters the bloodstream, the bacteria can spread throughout the victim’s body, causing life-threatening infections.

If you or your child sustained a dog bite injury, you should speak with an attorney immediately. Our injury lawyers can advise you on your next steps at no cost to you, and we do not collect any payment from you until we secure a recovery. Simply fill out the short contact form on this page to set up a free initial consultation.