According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost five million people are bitten by a dog each year, which means Americans are more likely to be bitten by a dog than they are to be injured at work. About 20 percent of individuals bitten by a dog seek medical attention for their injuries.
The severity of a dog bite differs from case to case. Common injuries are puncture wounds, permanent scarring, nerve damage and broken bones. Additionally, there is the concern of catching a disease from the dog, such as rabies. Most injuries are to the face and head, especially in children, who make up a significant portion of dog bite victims.
The worst bite cases are those that leave the injured person permanently damaged, which can happen when the bite injures a nerve or damages the underlying tissue. In many of these cases, patients require surgery to repair the affected area and possibly physical therapy. A broken bone can also require surgery, depending on the severity of the break. Usually, however, a break is best treated by immobilizing the broken bone for at least six weeks.
No dog bite, regardless of how mild, should ever go untreated. Cleaning the wound with rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide is crucial to ward off a possible infection. A medical provider can determine if further treatment is necessary or if the patient needs a vaccine for rabies, a disease that is fatal if left untreated. Rabies symptoms in humans usually appear after 30–50 days and include lethargy, loss of appetite, headaches and fever. Soon after, signs of damage to the nervous system could appear such as hypersensitivity, seizures or paralysis.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Preventing Dog Bites” Aug. 17, 2017.