How Do You Know if a Dog Bite is Serious (and Do You Need a Tetanus/Rabies Shot)?

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How Do You Know if a Dog Bite is Serious (and Do You Need a Tetanus/Rabies Shot)?

How Do You Know if a Dog Bite is Serious (and Do You Need a Tetanus/Rabies Shot)?

May 30, 2021

With nearly 63 million U.S. households owning dogs (and an estimated 77 million dogs living in those homes), dog bites are an everyday occurrence. You don’t have to look far to see a report of a dog bite attack in the news, some of which actually lead to tragic fatalities. Even President Biden’s dog, Major, made headlines for biting an unsuspecting bystander – twice.

The Insurance Information Institute (III) estimates that over 4 million Americans are bitten by dogs every year, with 350,000 individuals being treated for non-fatal dog bites in 2017. Over 10,000 of those dog bite victims were children two years old or younger, according to the III.

When a dog bite injury occurs, one of the most common questions asked by the victim is:

Does this need medical attention (i.e. a tetanus or rabies shot)?

Below we’ll take a look at how to tell if a dog bite requires medical attention, and review what steps you should take to avoid infection. Additionally, we’ll discuss which dog breeds are known to be most dangerous, and outline how to file a civil claim in pursuit of a financial damages award if you ever sustain a dog bite injury.

How Do You Know if a Dog Bite Needs Medical Attention?

The first thing to remember about dog bites is that even seemingly minor injuries can lead to serious health complications. Accordingly, it is always advisable that dog bite victims err on the side of caution when it comes to receiving medical attention. Health conditions such as rabies can develop even if an injury isn’t immediately obvious.

HealthGrades notes that dog bites are classified by severity:

  • Level 1: The dog’s teeth do not touch the victim’s skin
  • Level 2: The dog’s teeth touch (but do not break) the victim’s skin
  • Level 3: There are one to four shallow puncture wounds in the victim’s skin
  • Level 4: One to four punctures from a single bite exist (and at least one puncture wound is deep)
  • Level 5: Multiple bites (including some deep puncture wounds) are visible – typically from a dog attack

After a dog bite, the victim should assess the severity of the wound. If there is no bleeding, washing the bite thoroughly with soap and water immediately after the incident is recommended. If the wound is bleeding, pressure should be applied.

Ready to file a claim and pursue justice through a financial damages award? Our expert attorneys are available online or by phone now.

For dog bite wounds that are actively bleeding, HealthGrades recommends applying pressure for five minutes until the bleeding stops. Wash the affected area with soap and water afterward, as flushing the wound can diminish the odds of a dog bite infection.

For a dog bite wound that bleeds, a proper examination by a physician is recommended. Prior to the medical exam, try to keep the wound (affected area) above the level of your heart. This can help prevent swelling as well as infection. Keep the wound covered with a bandage until being seen by a medical professional.

As a general rule, a dog bite should be examined by a doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • The wound does not stop bleeding after 15 minutes of pressure being applied
  • The bite has visibly broken the skin. In such cases, a tetanus shot may be required to reduce the possibility of tetanus infection (this can vary depending on when the victim last received a tetanus shot booster)
  • The victim was bitten by a feral or stray dog
  • The animal’s immunization records from the owner are not available
  • The victim has a weakened immune system (this could be due to an illness like diabetes, or a specific medical treatment such as immunotherapy/chemotherapy)
  • Signs of infection – redness, warmth, pus, or swelling – are present

Dog bites may cause a doctor to prescribe antibiotics in some cases. Additionally, if the dog is suspected to have rabies, the injured victim may require a series of rabies vaccinations. Rabies is 100% preventable, but only through the specified sequence of vaccines administered by a medical professional.

What Breed of Dog is Most Dangerous?

Determining the “most dangerous” breed of dog can be difficult depending on which research data you reference. In the 1990s, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a study evaluating which dog breeds were involved in fatal attacks in the United States between 1979 and 1996. Throughout that period, the Pit Bull was identified as the most dangerous breed/type of dog, having been involved in 60 attacks or incidents. The Rottweiler was the next most dangerous breed, with 29 bites or attacks on record, and the German Shepherd was third with 19.

More recent data reported by Forbes seemed to indicate similar findings, with the Pit Bull breed killing 284 people over a 13-year period (from 2005 to 2017). That figure represented 66% of all fatalities. That’s actually an alarming number considering that the Pit Bull breed amounts to only 6.5% of the entire American dog population.

According to Forbes, “there is evidence to suggest that owners of vicious dogs are far more likely to have criminal convictions for violent crimes, which may go some way towards explaining the Pit Bull’s disproportionate rate of fatal attacks.

The 13-year study also found that the Rottweiler came in as the second most dangerous breed with 45 fatal attacks recorded. Again, the German Shepherd was found to be third most dangerous, this time with 20 attacks. However, as the Forbes report notes, some breeds that are not typically associated with aggression – such as the Labrador Retriever – actually make the ‘Top 10’ list of most dangerous dog breeds. From 2005 to 2017, the Labrador Retriever was surprisingly responsible for nine fatal attacks.

Accordingly, humans are encouraged to approach all dog breeds with caution. Even a dog that is acclimated to being around people for many years – such as President Biden’s – can attack without warning. While people generally exercise extra caution when around more dangerous breeds, such as Pit Bulls and Rottweilers, it’s important to always remain vigilant when in close proximity to “man’s best friend.”

Can I File a Lawsuit After a California Dog Bite?

Can I File a Lawsuit After a California Dog Bite?

As we’ve noted in previous blogs, whether you’re involved in a minor dog bite or a serious attack, you may be eligible to file a civil claim and recover financial compensation. After a dog attack, while you may not have visibly serious physical injuries, emotional or psychological trauma frequently occurs.

In California, strict liability dog bite laws mean that you, as the injured victim, have the right to hold the animal owner responsible for any costs resulting from an injury. These “costs” are typically referred to as damages in legalese, and can include medical expenses, lost wages, lost earning capacity, diminished quality of life, emotional trauma, pain and suffering, and much more.

If you were the victim of a dig bite – and were not unlawfully trespassing on the animal owner’s property – you likely have a valid legal claim that could result in the recovery a financial damages award. However, the vast majority of dog bite victims never sue, often believing that filing a dog bite personal injury lawsuit would be either a hassle or futile endeavor.

If you experienced a dog bite injury, don’t wait to file a claim. Contact our expert attorneys online or by phone for a free consultation today.

But that’s not the necessarily the case, and if you’ve been injured by a dog bite that resulted in any type of financial loss or harm, you deserve to be compensated accordingly.

After a dog bite injury, the best way to determine whether or not you have a valid legal claim for financial compensation is to contact the experienced attorneys at Dordulian Law Group (DLG). Our team of skilled and dedicated dog bite lawyers will evaluate your case and help you determine if proceeding with filing a claim will be worthwhile.

At DLG, we’ve been helping injured dog bite victims secure maximum financial compensation for decades. With a 98% success rate and over $100,000,000 recovered in settlements and verdicts for our clients, DLG is the best choice for a California dog bite attorney.

To learn more about how we can help you get back on your feet and make a complete recovery – physically, emotionally, and financially – after an unfortunate dog bite attack, contact us online or call 818-322-4056. We’re available 24/7 to listen to your claim and help you take the first step towards obtaining justice after a dog bite injury.

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