Dog Bites (and Human Bites)
“Dog bites are extremely traumatic events, both physically and emotionally. If you suffer a dog bite you deserve care that takes both into account”.
Are dog bites dangerous?
Yes, dog bite injuries can be extremely dangerous. A dog’s teeth are extremely sharp and are designed to tear. Dog bites usually result in either a puncture wound or a laceration (tear) in the skin. The wound may not look serious from the outside, but underneath the skin a lot of damage can be done to the underlying muscles, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels. Apart from the wound itself, infection is always a possibility.
Do I need to be seen if I have been bit by a dog?
We need to examine the wound as soon as possible if your skin has been broken (punctured) as the result of a dog bite. Because of the high risk of infection, the sooner you come in so that we can assess your wound, the better the outcome.
What should I expect during my visit?
When you come in to see us, we will assess the wound to determine how serious it is and what (if any) underlying structures have been affected. We will thoroughly clean the wound. If the wound requires stitches, we will freeze the skin first so that you don’t feel pain while we am suturing. After the wound has been stitched, we will dress the wound to keep it clean and dry.
In some cases, we may decide to leave the wound open to heal, as suturing a wound closed can sometimes increase the risk of infection. Whether the wound is left open or is sutured closed depends on several factors, including the location of the wound. Dog bites to the face are usually sutured to reduce scarring, but a small wound on a relatively “hidden” area of the body may be left open to heal. This is a decision that we can make together based on the severity of the wound, your risk of infection, the location of the wound and your personal preference.
Will I need to see a plastic surgeon?
We have extensive experience in treating wounds of this nature and can suture your wound to minimize scarring. If your injury is severe, or if a tendon or ligament has been injured, we may need to refer you to a plastic surgeon or another specialist. If this is the case, we can decide where to send you based on your preference.
Will I need to see you again after the initial treatment?
Because dog bites often result in infection, we may ask that you come to see us again so that we can assess how well your injury is healing and look for signs of infection. At your initial visit, we will provide wound care instructions and we will discuss when you should return for a follow-up appointment. If you receive stitches, you will need to return to the clinic to have them removed.
Will I need antibiotics?
We may decide to prescribe an antibiotic during your first visit if we feel that there is a strong likelihood that an infection will develop in your wound. If the wound is very minor, we may take a “wait and see” approach, closely monitoring your wound for signs of infection.
A Word about Human Bites
Human bites may be intentional (i.e., inflicted during the course of a fight) or accidental (i.e., your head comes in contact with someone else’s tooth, breaking the skin). If your skin has been broken by coming into contact with someone else’s mouth, you should seek medical attention. The human mouth carries many pathogens (germs) that can cause infection. You may also require a tetanus shot, just as in dog bites.
What about rabies?
It is very important that we know whether the dog that bit you has been vaccinated against rabies. If it was your dog that bit you, this is an easy matter to determine. If you were bitten by a stray dog, local authorities may be contacted. The decision to vaccinate you for rabies will be based on several factors which we can discuss during your initial visit. You may also require a tetanus shot if it has been some time since your last one.
Will my insurance cover a dog bite?
Your home owners insurance may cover any medical expenses if you are bitten by your own dog. If you are bitten by someone else’s dog, their insurance may cover the costs of medical care. Some policies exclude certain breeds such as pit bulls.
The emotional toll
Apart from the physical damage, dog bites inflict emotional trauma. Whether you have been bitten by your own or someone else’s dog, the experience can leave you shaken. We understand how upsetting such an event can be and realize that the emotional trauma can be just as bad (or worse) than the physical trauma. Some people develop a fear of dogs that can be difficult to cope with. We can talk about your feelings, especially if you are feeling very anxious or frightened.
If you have been bitten by a dog and your skin has been broken, it is important that you seek medical care as soon as possible. Due to the urgent nature of this type of injury, we will go out of our way to accommodate you. Make an appointment as soon as possible after the injury occurs to reduce the risk of infection.