Identifying Dog Bite Wound Infection

Your dog may suffer a bite wound from another dog. The severity of the wound will vary depending on:

  • The size of the dogs involved in the injury
  • The bite intensity
  • The location of the bite.

Dog bites are typically slashing injuries which damage tissue below the skin so, while the wound may appear to be a minor injury, there may be extensive damage deep below the surface.

Bite Wounds Can Cause Infection

A dog bite will send bacteria from the mouth deep into the tissue layers underlying the skin. The wound should be properly examined and thoroughly cleansed before the bacteria are able to multiply and cause infection. This can occur as soon as a few hours after the injury, or even up to a week later depending on the nature of the wound. If a dog bite wound does become infected there are a number of symptoms which will indicate an infection has occurred.

Symptoms of a dog bite wound infection include:

  • Swelling around the wound
  • Redness or discoloration of the skin over and around the wound
  • The skin around the wound can become warm to the touch
  • Pain on movement of the affected area
  • Drainage of fluid or pus
  • Foul odor
  • Increase in body temperature
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy or depression
  • Decreased activity

Some dogs will have swelling in an area far from the bite wound. This swelling usually occurs in an area of the body lower than the wound. Fluids can travel along the tissue layers and pool along the lower body wall. The swelling can either feel hard or it may feel like a soft sac of fluid.

Diagnosis and Treatment

A blood test may be needed to diagnose the severity of an infection. This test, called a complete blood count (CBC), will reveal certain cell types that indicate infection, anemia, the dog's ability to clot blood and if he is dehydrated or experiencing shock. During an infection the body’s amount of white blood cells—the body’s defense system against infection—is elevated.

Bacteria from the wound can also spread to the blood stream causing a system-wide infection called septicemia. In addition to the signs of a wound infection, the dog may begin to breathe rapidly and have a rapid heart beat. This serious medical condition can become life-threatening very quickly leading to shock and blood clotting problems.

Dogs having a bite wound should be examined for the symptoms of infection on a daily basis until the wound begins to heal. A bitten dog should be seen by a veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment ss soon as any signs of infection occur.