Do I Need a Tetanus Shot After a Dog Bite?

Man’s best friend holds a special place in the hearts of many. While many of our furry companions spend their lives being affectionate and cuddly, they are by nature animals. This leaves the possibility of the unfortunate scenario of a dog bite injury. According to WebMD, 4.5 million Americans are bitten by a dog every year, with the majority of those attacks made by a dog the victim already knows. Medical bills related to having suffered a dog bite average as high as $18,000! Sometimes, these incidents have no warning signs and, therefore, could not have been prevented, but there are several dog bite safety steps you can take, as a victim, if a dog bite does happen to you.

First aid for a dog bite can be administered at home, but medical assistance should be sought in the following instances: the dog is unfamiliar to you, the bite is deep, there is uncontrollable bleeding, or there are signs of infection such as pus, swelling, the warmth of the bite site, or redness. WebMD recommends the following first aid steps be followed to care for a dog bite at home:

1) Cover the area with a clean towel to stop any bleeding

2) Keep the injured area elevated

3) Was the wound carefully with soap and water

4) Apply antibiotic ointment and a sterile bandage to the injury

5) Keep the wound site clean and reapply ointment and new bandages every day

6) Visit your doctor so that they may examine the wound and determine the extent of damage and if sutures or surgery is necessary

WebMD also lists the following symptoms of tetanus to be aware of in the occurrence of a dog bite:

1) Headache

2) Muscle stiffness, particularly along the jawline

3) Trouble swallowing

4) Restlessness/irritability

5) Sweating or fever

6) High blood pressure

7) Facial muscle spasms

If you experience any of the above symptoms and are unsure of the dog’s vaccination history or if it tested positive for rabies, make sure to seek medical attention immediately. Tetanus, when left untreated can lead to death. Make sure you know what to keep an eye out for and when to seek help to keep you and your family safe.