Common Dog Bite Infections

While most dog bite infections are successfully treated at home, recent studies have shown that animal bites are the cause of nearly 334,000 emergency room visits each year, about 1% of all emergency visits nationwide. Some dog bites may not lead to anything serious, but because there are risk factors for life-threatening infection, it is important to recognize the most common dog bite infections and how to identify them.

Pasteurellosis Infections

A bacterium known as pasteurella multocida lives naturally in the mouths of dogs. This organism can live in the saliva of both healthy and unhealthy dogs, so there is really no way to know if a dog is a natural carrier of this bacterium or not. This dog bite infection is probably the most common and one of the most dangerous.

Symptoms typically present shortly after being bitten, and they can range from general redness and swelling to an array of respiratory complications, such as pneumonia. The bacterium tends to spread from the site of the bite to other areas of the body quickly, so immediate medical care for this type of bite is paramount.

Staphylococcal Infections

Staph infections are highly dangerous to humans, and are also one type of common dog bite infection. Recent research has shown that dogs are naturally carriers of this bacterium in their saliva. Once in the bloodstream, staph infections move relatively quickly, and every organ in the body then becomes susceptible.

The symptoms of a dog bite staph infection will vary depending on the strain of staph bacteria. Some staph infections produce a minor abscess-like infection, while others eat through the flesh and down to the muscle and the bone. Severe staph infections can result in cellulitis, meaning that the infection has reached the bloodstream and is traveling through the body. One of the most serious risks presents when staph presents in the heart, known as endocarditis.

Common symptoms associated with staph dog bite infections include:

  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Abscess and pus formation
  • Red streak ascending from the bite (indicating cellulitis)
  • Fever and chills

Rabies Infections

Regular rabies vaccinations for dogs are required by law. However, if you are bitten by a wild dog, you cannot be entirely sure that the dog has received a rabies vaccination. Because rabies infections can be fatal, they require immediate medical treatment.

One of the reasons that rabies dog bite infections are so harmful is because the symptoms usually do not present until the infection has become fatal, leaving very little time for medical intervention.

Signs and symptoms of a rabies dog bite infection can include:

  • Decreased awareness
  • Dysphagia
  • Delirium
  • Fever and chills
  • Nervousness
  • Paralysis of the limbs

Capnocytophaga Infection

This dog bite infection occurs from the Capnocytophaga canimorsus organism, which is primarily found in dogs. Although this type of infection is extremely rare, it is nearly always fatal. In general, the bite mark from this type of infection will be minor, and probably not alert a person to seeking medical care. This is a mistake, however, because Capnocytophaga infections cause septicemia, which is blood poisoning. Roughly 30% of people with this type of dog bite infection will die.

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Myalgias
  • Headache
  • Red, swollen patches stemming from the bite