Common Dog Bite Injuries

If a dog has bitten you, the first thing you should do is seek medical care. The doctors will examine your wound and provide treatment based on the severity of your injuries. They may also give you a tetanus shot or other antibiotics.

While serious injuries are possible, most bites lead to only minor wounds. However, these wounds can introduce bacteria into your body and cause infections. To learn more, check out

Deep Wounds

Common Dog Bite Injuries

Depending on the size of the wound and where it is located on the body, serious injuries can occur. A nip or bite from an aggressive dog can puncture the skin and cause bleeding or infection. The powerful jaws of dogs can also crush or tear muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments. These kinds of injuries are called lacerations and often involve uneven, zig-zag patterns of bleeding and extensive damage. They require medical attention, stitches, and a clean environment to heal properly.

Puncture wounds from a dog bite may not seem severe, but even a small hole can allow bacteria to enter the wound and create an infection. Because these wounds are so deep, they need immediate medical treatment, even if the bleeding isn’t profuse.

In addition to bacterial infections, severe dog bites can cause complications like septic arthritis. This occurs when infection from a bite spreads through the bloodstream to attack joints. It can be especially dangerous in young children and people with weakened immune systems, and it can lead to long-term disabilities.

Another serious complication of dog bites is the development of sepsis, which happens when infection from a bite enters the bloodstream and attacks multiple organs at once. It can be life-threatening in infants, children, and older adults, as well as people with certain underlying health conditions such as diabetes or cancer.

Some severe wounds from dog bites result in permanent scarring that affects the victim’s quality of life and appearance. If the wounds are on the head or face, reconstructive surgery may be necessary.

If you get a dog bite, immediately clean the wound with a mild soap and warm water for several minutes to reduce the risk of infection. Avoid hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can further damage the skin. Use a gauze pad or clean cloth to apply pressure and elevate the injury to reduce bleeding. Then, apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment. Clean the wound 3 to 4 times each day and keep it away from your pet, which can lick it and cause further infection.


The sharp claws and teeth of dogs can create puncture wounds that penetrate through the skin and into muscles, bones, nerves, and blood vessels. These deep wounds are more likely to become infected than shallow lacerations.

Infections in bite wounds can have severe consequences if they are not treated promptly. Some infections can enter the bloodstream and impact other parts of the body, leading to septic shock and even death.

Approximately 10 to 15% of all dog bites result in infections, usually from bacteria from the animal’s mouth and germs on the victim’s skin. Bacterial infections include abscesses, cellulitis, and pyomyositis (pus in the soft tissue).

The most common aerobic bacteria isolated from infected dog bite wounds are Pasteurella multocida and Staphylococcus aureus. These organisms cause symptom signs such as redness, warmth, pain, swelling, pus, and tenderness at the wound site. Other aerobic bacteria found in infected dog bite wounds include Streptococcus species, Corynebacterium species, Eikenella corrodensa, and Capnocytophaga canimorsus.

Anaerobic bacteria such as Bacteroides fragilis, Fusobacterium species, and Veillonella parvula are also common in these wounds. However, most infected bite wounds do not yield bacterial growth when cultured under aerobic conditions, suggesting that other bacteria are involved in these injuries.

Most people who suffer from dog bites focus on the cosmetic appearance of the wound, but health care professionals should be concerned with the underlying structures that may have been injured by the bite. A laceration that exposes the tendon of a finger, for example, may lead to infection, loss of function, and possible scarring, while a puncture wound that infects the muscle, bone, or nerve could be life-threatening.

It is particularly important to get medical treatment for injuries that affect the lungs, nervous system, or eyes. These injuries require immediate attention, including antibiotics and sometimes surgery.


The mouths of dogs and cats contain a variety of bacteria. Any bite that punctures the skin introduces these bacteria into the wound, creating a perfect breeding ground for infection. The most common infections associated with dog bites involve standard bacteria that cause fever, pus and redness at the wound site. Other, less common infections include septic arthritis (infection of the joints), septic peritonitis (pus in the abdominal cavity) and pyothorax (pus in the chest).

If left untreated, an infected bite wound can spread beyond the affected area. This can lead to a variety of conditions, including meningitis, which may be caused by a Gram-negative organism called Capnocytophaga canimorsus or Pasteurella. Both of these organisms are commonly found in the saliva of dogs and cats, but they can also be spread through less-severe contact, such as licking or scratching. In severe cases, the infection from a bite can turn into sepsis. This condition is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment.

Sepsis starts when the body responds to a bacterial infection with a massive inflammatory response that can kill off cells in the affected area. If the infection spreads to organs, it can lead to multiple organ dysfunction syndrome and death. The main causes of sepsis are bacterial infections, but it can also be caused by viral, fungal or parasitic diseases.

In addition to severe physical injuries, a serious dog attack can cause long-term emotional distress. Children are particularly at risk for permanent disabilities and disfigurement.

If the force of the bite is strong enough, it can crush bones and break muscles. Crushing injuries are most often seen in attacks involving large dogs and account for 12% of all dog bite-related fatalities. The most serious of these injuries involve the head and neck, which can be pulverized or crushed by a powerful bite from a dog’s jaw. These injuries may be extremely painful, require surgery and create life-long disabilities. The injuries caused by these accidents may also leave behind permanent scarring. These scars can be a source of psychological distress for some people, especially young children who are often victims of these types of accidents.


The injuries from dog bites can leave behind a lifelong scar and deformity. For some victims, this can cause distress and impact quality of life. In severe cases, reconstructive surgery may be required. The lips, cheek and nose are the most common sites of facial injury in dog bites.

Infection is often a complication of dog bite wounds, especially when they are deep wounds. Infection can also slow healing and increase the risk of scarring. It is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible after an attack and be evaluated for infection.

Some dog bite wounds, particularly those that are infected or not properly treated, can become permanent scars. This can be particularly problematic for the face and hands, as the skin in these areas is thin. A scar in these areas can be highly visible, and it can make the victim feel self-conscious. It can also have a negative impact on self-image and can lead to psychological trauma.

Permanent scarring can be a result of serious dog bite wounds that cut beyond the dermal layer and damage nerve tissue. A bite to the hand, for example, can be particularly devastating as the human wrist and fingers contain a bundle of sensitive nerves. This makes a severe bite more likely to result in permanent scarring, nerve damage and long-term loss of mobility.

If a person is permanently scarred from a dog bite, it’s a good idea to talk with an experienced attorney to explore potential compensation options. A skilled attorney can help determine whether a claim is warranted to cover current and future medical bills as well as any lost wages from days missed at work while the scar heals.

A skilled lawyer can also help with emotional trauma caused by a dog bite. In some cases, it is appropriate to pursue compensation to cover counseling or therapy that might be needed to address anxiety and fear as a result of the trauma. This can be a very distressing time for victims and their families, and it’s not fair that they should have to bear the brunt of someone else’s negligence.