Dog Bites

About 1 million dog bites occur each year in the U.S.

Dog bites cause an estimated tens of millions of injuries every year around the world.

Children are at higher risk of animal bites, particularly by dogs.

Children are at greater risk of bites of the head and/or neck region which can cause more severe injury and sometimes death.
Households with dogs and adults with two more dogs or more likely to incur a bite compared with those without pets.
Travelers may be at greater risk of dog bites depending on the geographical location and activities associated with the travel.

Medical care should be given if the dog bite disrupts the skin causing a puncture, laceration, or tear, or underlying structures have been damaged.

With no disruption of the skin or if a minimal abrasion is present, it may be reasonable to watch for signs of infection, only.

The rabies immunization status of the dog needs to be determined, as does the victim’s tetanus status.

Issues that need to be addressed after a dog bite include the degree of skin damage, injuries to underlying tissues such as muscle, nerve, and bone, and possible infection.

Dog bites inoculate bacteria deep into tissues, and the majority of dog bites do get infected.

Infection is an important possible complication after a dog bite, especially if the bite is deep or severe.
Bleeding, pain, tearing of skin and potentially deep injury to muscle or bone can occur.
Rarely, dog bites can lead to tetanus or rabies.

Common bacteria involved include Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, and Pasteurella.

Suturing the skin increases the risk of infection.

Extensive dog bite wounds need to be repaired in the operating room if there is considerable skin damage or skin loss, or associated injuries that require treatment.

Treatment is dependent on the health of the person that has been bitten, the location of the wound, and the risk of rabies transmission from the animal.

Open wounds are particularly at risk for infection, and should be thoroughly cleaned and given antibiotics if the wound is severe or if signs of infection occur, such as fever or redness or swelling.
Bites on the hand are particularly at high risk for infection.

Controversy regarding antibiotics exists with some physicians routinely prescribing antibiotics while others waiting until signs of potential infection appear.

Amoxicillin is the drug most commonly used to treat infections that result from dog bites, and will be effective against most infections likely to occur from a dog bite.

Penicillin, and ampicillin and other simple antibiotics are unlikely to be effective against a large number of infections likely to occur from a dog bite.

In penicillin allergic patients doxycycline, erythromycin, clindamycin and fluoroquinolone may also be used to treat infections resulting from dog bites.

Duration of antibiotics should be about 10 days to 2weeks.

Tetanus vaccination may be given to prevent infection and rabies vaccination may also be administered depending upon where the bite occurred  geographically and the circumstances of the bite.
Prevention of dog bites includes avoiding unfamiliar dogs, not disturbing dogs that are sleeping or eating.
Supervision of children playing with a dog is necessary.

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