You may have heard somewhere that dogs have very “clean mouths” and that the risk of infection after a dog bite is relatively low. This is not true, according to the School of Veterinary Medicine at Louisiana State University. In fact, they say that you might not even need to be bitten by a dog to be infected. Animal saliva is so heavily contaminated with bacteria that you can become infected simply by having your dog lick a cut or a scratch on your arm.
Typically, in Virginia dog bite cases, the largest injury is the bite itself. Whether it’s a simple puncture wound or a mauling that involves torn skin, muscle and fatty deposits, the damage from the bite usually does the most damage. This is because most victims get themselves to medical treatment at a hospital or an urgent care center fairly quickly, before and have the dog bite wound cleaned out so that it does not become infected.
If you do not seek immediate medical attention, you are putting yourself at risk for sevearl potential infections:
- Streptococcal and Staphylococcal Infections. If you observe redness or painful swelling at the site of the dog bite that is progressing outward from the site, you should seek immediate medical attention.
- Pasteurellosis. This is the most common dog bite-associated infection. Most dogs and cats carry the organism Pasteurella in their mouths. This bacteria can be transmitted via bite and usually manifests itself within 2-12 hours of the bite. The first signs are pain, redness and swelling, but the infection can quickly spread outward from the bitten area. This can be particularly dangerous in the hand where the bacteria infects tendons or bones and can cause permanent damage if not treated properly.
- Capnocytophaga. This is a rarer infection, but is incredibly dangerous. This type of infectoin can cause septicemia (blood poisoning), particularly in people whose immune systems are compromised by some underlying condition. Up to 30 percent of those who developed septicemia from this infection die.
If you are bitten by a dog, you should immediately and thoroughly wash the wound with soap and warm water to remove as much dirt and saliva as possible. Next, you should apply antibiotic ointment and cover the wound wiht gauze or a bandage. If the wound is severe, you should seek professional medical attention.