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Myriad risks and complications of dog bites

Even seemingly docile and domesticated dogs can still attack. The American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA) reports that there are around 4.5 million documented dog bites each year. Of those, 20 percent (almost a million) are serious enough to require medical attention. Children are the most commonly bitten, and their bites tend to be more serious than those afflicting adults, likely because children make easier targets and are often not strong enough to fight the animal off during an attack.

There are some obvious – and not so obvious – consequences of dog bites. The more obvious ones have to do with the physical impact of an animal attack, and the injuries inflicted by a bite. Dogs have very strong jaws with extremely sharp teeth, and when those meet flesh, the damage can be catastrophic.

Common dog bite injuries include:

  • Puncture wounds, sometimes penetrating to the bone
  • Jagged tears (both in the skin and in the underlying tissue)
  • Crush-type injuries (particularly common among children, who make up roughly half of all dog bite victims, in their digits and extremities)
  • Nerve damage
  • Scarring, sometimes so severe it requires revisionary corrective or plastic surgery
  • Severe, lasting pain

Infections are also common following dog bites, mainly because dog mouths are virtual breeding grounds for bacteria like Pasteurella (seen in half of all infected bite wounds), MRSA and Capnocytophaga. If left untreated, infections can spread throughout the body, leading to widespread tissue damage, amputation of a digit or limb, and the development of systemic illnesses like sepsis. Dog bites can easily pass along these bacteria, and they can cause illnesses like rabies and tetanus as well.

If you or someone you love suffered an animal bite – whether that animal was familiar to you or not – you need to take quick action. It’s vitally important to stop the bleeding from deep wounds, to thoroughly clean superficial ones, and to seek medical attention for serious bites.