Sometimes, when dogs feel threatened, or if they’re ill, they’ll lash out and bite. A dog bite can be alarming. If the bite is severe, you may be wondering if it warrants a trip to the ER. Understanding when to go to the emergency room for a dog bite can help you act quickly, preventing further harm to you or someone who’s been bitten.
Dog bites can be severe, and if the dog bite broke skin, depending on the size and health of the dog, their teeth can pack a lot of power. Sometimes a dog bite can affect people’s limbs, hands, feet, or other parts of their body.
Here are some reasons to visit the ER when you’ve experienced an alarming dog bite.
Animals can have harmful bacteria in their mouths that are harmful to people. If an animal has bitten and your dog bite is bleeding, this means it has punctured the skin. That bacteria can easily transfer to your body, causing an infection.
If you suspect your dog bite is infected, you should go to the ER immediately. Antibiotics can help prevent infections from spreading or evolving to more serious conditions. An infection could take a few hours to show symptoms, so if you’re unsure, the best bet is to make the trip to the emergency room.
If the bite is deep enough, you may need stitches. Dogs tend to have large, jagged teeth that have intense power to rip flesh and break the skin. If the bite is deep enough, you’ll have to get stitches right away. Head to the ER immediately if you think you need stitches for a dog bite.
One common reaction to a dog bite is the development of tetanus. Tetanus is a preventable, incurable infection. Because of this, when you visit the ER for a dog bite, you’ll be asked when your last tetanus booster was. If it’s been longer than 10 years – or if you can’t remember, you’ll be given one to prevent tetanus from developing.
If the dog bite broke the skin, it’s best to get it checked out as soon as possible.
If the dog bite is bleeding and broke the skin, head to Austin Emergency Center to get checked out. Getting stitches will prevent future infections from spreading.
If you sense the dog bite is infected, or if you’re experiencing symptoms of an infection, head to the emergency room as soon as possible.
Though the overall occurrence of rabies cases in dogs in the United States is very low (60-70 cases reported each year), rabies is nearly 100% fatal to humans once clinical signs appear. It is important for patients to consider the decision to start post exposure rabies prophylaxis with a physician if there is any question about an animal’s vaccination status. The decision to start rabies prophylaxis after a dog bite can typically be delayed if the dog is healthy and can be quarantined for 10 days of observation. This observation should be considered even if the dog is already vaccinated for rabies.
Dr. Joffre Johnson, Austin Emergency Center
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