Dog Bites: Symptoms, Prevention, and Treatments

  • If a dog bite pierces a person’s skin, bacteria from the animal’s mouth can get into the body, which can cause an infection.
  • Washing the wound thoroughly can remove the bacteria from the body and help prevent infection. If the bacteria stay in the body, they can cause an infection, such as tetanusrabies, or sepsis.
  • In some cases, an infection can spread to other parts of the body. People will need antibioticsor vaccinations to treat these types of infection.

Symptoms of Dog Bites:

Symptoms of a dog bite infection can include:

  • Swelling and redness around the wound
  • Pain that lasts longer than 24 hours
  • Drainage from the wound
  • Difficulty moving the affected part of the body
  • A warm feeling around the wound

Signs that the infection may have spread to other parts of the body include:

Preventing infection:

To help prevent infection from a dog bite, people should wash the wound as soon as possible. People can treat minor wounds by:

  • Washing the wound with soap and warm water, making sure to clean the area thoroughly
  • Running the wound under lukewarm water to flush out bacteria
  • Applying antibiotic cream to the wound and then wrapping a clean bandage around it

People should deal with deeper, more serious wounds by:

  • Pressing a dry, clean cloth firmly against the wound to stop the bleeding
  • Seeking medical attention straight away


  • People may be able to use at-home treatments to prevent a dog bite from becoming infected. Cleaning minor wounds immediately is often sufficient. However, people should see a doctor for more serious wounds.
  • A doctor may use a syringe to apply water and a cleaning solution to the wound. Doing this helps flush out bacteria from the wound. The doctor may then prescribe antibiotics to fight off any bacteria that have entered the body and prevent infection.
  • A doctor will also be able to examine the wound to look for any damage to structures in the body, such as nerves or bones.
  • If the person has not had a tetanus vaccine in the last 5 years, they may need to have one to reduce the risk of tetanus.
  • In cases of severe or facial wounds, people may need stitches to close the wound. If the person does not know the dog’s history of rabies vaccination, they will need a postexposure rabies vaccine to protect them from the possibility of rabies.

When to see a doctor?

People should seek emergency medical attention for a dog bite if they have:

  • Uncontrollable bleeding from the wound
  • A fever
  • A red, swollen, or painful wound
  • A wound that feels warm
  • A deep wound and have not had their tetanus shot within the last 5 years

If a person thinks that a dog bite has resulted in damage to the nerves or bones, they should seek emergency treatment. Emergency treatment is also necessary if an infection has spread to other parts of the body.

People should also seek medical attention if the dog that bit them was acting strangely, or they are unsure whether the dog has received a vaccine against rabies.

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