With all the pet dogs in U.S. households, it’s no surprise that more than 800,000 Americans get medical treatment for dog bites yearly. And that number doesn’t include other injuries, like when a dog knocks someone over or causes an accident by chasing a motorcycle. Depending on the circumstances and the relevant laws, dog owners are generally liable if their pets hurt someone. That means the owners (or their insurance companies) may have to pay the victims for the harm they suffered (or “damages”). A dog bite can have severe consequences such as:
Abrasions refer to superficial injuries such as grazes and scrapes that don’t
go past your epidermis. Usually, when you suffer bruises due to a dog attack,
there isn’t a lot of bleeding, but in severe cases, you may experience
scarring. Typically, these injuries can be treated at home, but you may want to
seek medical attention to ensure you don’t have any infections or
complications. Additionally, medical records can be essential if you bring
forward a lawsuit.
Lacerations are deep cuts or tears in the skin. They go past the epidermis
and into your body’s muscles, bones, nerves, and blood vessels. Often, these
wounds are marked by uneven, zig-zig patterns and excessive bleeding. It would
help if you had medical attention and stitches to treat lacerations from a dog
attack. Do not try to close these wounds on your own with skin repair tape.
That can lock in infections and create an even worse situation.
Punctures happen when the dog’s teeth pierce or puncture your skin. Although
these wounds can be much more minor than lacerations, they tend to be profound.
That heightens the risk of infection, so medical attention should be sought
even if the bleeding isn’t profuse.
Approximately 10 to 15% of dog bites lead to infections.
Often, diseases come from bacteria in the dog’s mouth, but they can also arise
from germs or bacteria on your skin. That’s why it’s always essential to clean
your wounds. You should also be aware of the signs of infection: pain, redness,
swelling, and pus. In some cases, the site of the infection may feel warm to
the touch. If you see any of these symptoms, contact a medical professional
immediately. They should be able to give you antibiotics to counteract the
Although not as common as rabies, tetanus also can occur after a dog bite.
Generally, this doesn’t come from the dog’s saliva but rather from the victim’s
skin flora or the environment. If you’re worried about this risk, ask your
doctor to screen you for tetanus and update your shot.
Crushing injuries usually occur in attacks involving large dogs. Large dogs
can exert tremendous force with their jaws that can crush, break, or fracture
you’re bones while injuring your muscles and soft tissues. Sadly, many dogs have
even been known to crush the heads of babies completely, and that’s why infants
makeup about 12% of dog bite-related fatalities.
Avulsion means ripping or tearing something away; these injuries occur when the
dog rips skin or tissue away from your body. For instance, if a dog wholly or
rips your ear off your head, that is an avulsion injury. These injuries are
severe. They typically require reconstructive surgery, and they can lead to
lifelong scarring or other issues.
You may face scarring if you have an avulsion, a laceration, or even some
deep abrasions. To reduce the long-term effects of scarring, your doctors may
be able to do skin grafts or use laser therapy. Extensive scarring can be
embarrassing and socially debilitating, and in these cases, you may want to
talk with a dog bite attorney about compensation for your pain and suffering.
Injuries from Familiar Dogs If your dog attacks you, the
injuries often differ from those you receive from strays or other
people’s dogs. People tend to be very close to their pets, so they often
receive bites on their faces or necks. Unfortunately, if your dog attacks you,
you usually can’t hold anyone else liable for your injuries.
–Injuries from Other Dogs
In contrast, the most common injuries from other dogs tend to occur on your
hands. This often happens when people reach their hand out to a strange dog to
let them sniff it. The exception is with children. Due to their short stature,
children often suffer facial wounds from both peculiar and familiar dogs.
If the bite extends into the nerves, you may experience
nerve damage. Depending on the extent of the injury, this can lead to temporary
loss of function or permanent loss of ability in that part of your body. In
extreme cases, nerve damage can cause permanent paralysis.
Death from Dog Attacks
Finally, some dog attacks can lead to death. There were 279 deaths due to
dog attacks between 1979 and 1994. That’s approximately 18 per year.