A dog bite is usually a traumatic experience, especially when the victim is a small child. What a small child has been bitten by a dog or cat, a visit to a doctor or emergency room is often in order. Even with adults, more severe bites may require a trip to a physician. The treatment for dog bite varies considerably depending on the location and severity of the bite. However, typically after a dog bite your doctor will:
1) Check the injury for bone damage, tendon injury, nerve damage, and infection. In some cases, you may need to return to be checked for infection, since in many cases signs of infection do not develop for a few days. Redness, swelling, excessive fluid buildup, and pus can all be signs of infection. If you notice these after a trip to your doctor, you may need to visit a doctor again.
2) Clean the wound. Your doctor may need to remove damaged tissue while cleaning the wound. Usually, he or she will use a special solution which will help prevent infection and will help remove pus, fluid buildup, animal saliva, and other debris that may lead to infection.
3) Stitch the wound closed. If the wound is large or gaping, the physician may choose to use stitches in order to close the wound. If stitching is not strictly necessary, the physician will often avoid using stitches. This is because sutures increase the risk of infection as well as the risk of scarring after a personal injury.
4) Offer help for infection. Depending on the bite, a doctor may prescribe an antibiotic or the antibiotic ointment to help you avoid infection. He or she may also give you specific directions in order to help prevent infection. It is important to follow these directions carefully.
5) Provide you with shots. If you had a tetanus shot five years or more ago, your doctor may give you a tetanus shot to help prevent complications. In most cases, rabies shots are not necessary because in the United States most rabies infection comes from wild animals rather than domestic pets. If the pet that bit you appeared healthy at the time of your bite, it is unlikely that you will need a rabies shot. It is possible that the vaccination record of the pet will be located to determine whether you will need a rabies shots. After an attack, a dog will generally be quarantined to ensure that it does not show signs of rabies. If it does develop signs of rabies, you will be given a series of rabies shots. If the animal cannot be found after biting you, animal control or a local health department will likely try to find the animal and test it. If the animal that has inflicted the bite wound cannot be found, you may still wish to have a series of rabies shots just to be on the safe side.
6) Follow up. Your doctor may wish to see you again in two days or so in order to check on your wound, check on your stitches, and check for signs of infection again. If at that time your infection is not under control even though you have been taking antibiotics, you may need to visit a hospital or see a specialist. You may even need to be given intravenous antibiotics or additional treatment in order to help fight the infection. If you have a serious illness that affects your immunity, you may need to take these precautions up front.