Health Tips

Dog Bites & Associated Infections: A Brief Overview

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A dog bite doesn’t indicate any health problem, but the severity of the wound can cause pain, and injury and produce germs that usually spread out through infections. Bite wounds may be minor to life-threatening but immediate medical attention is required to prevent any infection or traumatic complications.

According to Disease Control & Prevention, 4.7 million people are affected each year due to a dog bite. According to their statistical data, children are more prone to dog attacks as they don’t understand that the way they sometimes express their love for these animals might hurt them. It is observed that 80% of dog bites are responsible for creating wounds. One-fifth of these wounds at last turn into severe infection due to a lack of proper medical care.

What are the possible types of dog bites?

Mainly two types of dog bites are observed. They are:

Puncture: When the bite pierces the skin & the underlying tissue, then it is called a puncture. The lesion is more vulnerable to spreading the infection because the affected area is filled with bacteria exerted by the dog’s teeth. In this case, bleeding is minimal, so people tend to overlook it.

Laceration: When the bite tears up the skin & the wound is characterized by fringed edges and damaged underlying tissues then it is called a laceration. Here the bleeding is more and stitches are required to heal the wound tissues.

What are the possible infections people may get from a dog bite?

Possible infections from dog bites are:

Rabies: It is a serious viral disease one can get from dog bites. The rabies virus can affect the central nervous system. It’s almost deadly once the symptoms appear. If left untreated, it can lead to death. So the immediate appeal for medical attention is required.

Tetanus: Clostridium tetani bacteria produce tetanus toxin & causes difficulties in the wound and rigid paralysis.

Pasteurella: This type of bacteria can cause painful, red infections in the wound area. It can cause serious diseases (swelling in joints, swollen glands, difficulty in moving) in people with a weak immune system.

MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus): Dogs carry MRSA (showing symptoms) and that can spread through dog bites causing skin, lung, and urinary tract infections in human beings.

Capnocytophaga bacterial infections: This bacteria lives in the mouth of dogs, cats, and people. It can spread to people through scratches, and bites from dogs or cats. People with a weak immune system are at high risk of becoming sick.

What are the other complications of a dog bite?

Broken bones: An intense bite from a large dog can cause fractured bones, especially in the legs, feet, and hands. Always call for emergency medical help if a broken bone is suspected.

Nerve & muscle damage: An intense bite can cause damage to nerves, muscles, and blood vessels under the skin.

What are the symptoms of a dog bite Infection?

Possible symptoms of infections may include the following:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • The wound becomes redder & greater 
  • Increase in pain
  • Puss
  • Oozing
  • Fever, chills, and acute pain
  • Wounds don’t heal properly after the application of ointments

What are the risks?

It is observed that a dog bite creates various bacterial infections, e.g. Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Pasteurella, and Capnocytophaga. An unvaccinated dog can also carry rabies.

What are the possible first aid measures?

  • Wash off the wounded area with soap & warm water.
  • In case of a deep wound & excessive bleeding, gently press a clean cloth over the wounded area to stop the blood flow.
  • Apply an ointment (antibacterial) to the wounded area.
  • Wrap it with a sterile bandage.
  • Wait some days for signs of infection.
  • Consult with a doctor if the wound is severe and you suspect an infection (possible exposure to rabies)

What are the other treatment approaches toward different infections caused by a dog bite?

It is always suggested to consult a doctor immediately after a dog bite. The treatment varies upon the severity and condition of the patient.

Usual approaches are:

  • Rabies vaccination therapy.
  • Tetanus antitoxin.
  • IV or Oral antibiotic therapy.
  • Other medication & supportive treatment as suggested by the treating doctor.

What are the preventive measures when you are approaching a dog?

DOs:

  • Always be aware of petting someone else’s dog
  • Refrain from moving when approached by an unfamiliar dog
  • In case of unusual behavioral changes, inform others
  • Reduce the interaction between dogs & children
  • Avoid face-to-face contact with pet dogs
  • Call the pet dog by their name
  • Stay away from dogs that are ill

DON’Ts:

  • Don’t run from a dog
  • Never approach an unfamiliar dog
  • Don’t panic
  • Don’t disturb a dog when they’re caring for their puppies
  • Never encourage the dog to play dynamically
  • Don’t try to snatch or pull out an object from the dog’s mouth
  • Don’t disturb a dog when he is eating
  • Don’t make a loud noise in front of dogs

Conclusion: Regardless of breed, age, or variety any dog can bite. GARC (World Animal Protection and the Global Alliance for Rabies Control) are taking initiatives to work together to stop the spread of rabies virus infection as it majorly spreads through a dog bite. The best way to eliminate and prevent canine rabies is to promote vaccination for dogs. Statistics show that in India, about 15 million people are bitten by animals, mostly dogs, every year and need post-exposure prophylaxis. Still every year a large number of human deaths occur due to rabies infection, especially, among people of poor or low-income socioeconomic status. So the solution lies in creating awareness among people about the hazards of a dog bite & their related infections and how can they be averted.

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