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Dangerously Common Dog Bite Infections

Whether you’re a dog lover, or not, there are instances where you may find yourself in a dicey situation with an aggressive pup. While most dog bites are minor, some can cause serious infections that require medical attention and in some cases legal action.

Even the calmest dogs might bite when hurt, scared, or overly stimulated. Regardless of the dog's size or type, any animal bite can result in open skin injuries, elevating the chance of infection. Recognizing the dangers of dog bite infections and ensuring your health and rights are safeguarded is why we wrote this article!

Dog Bite Infection Symptoms 

Dog bites are very common, especially among young children and the elderly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs in the United States every year, and about 1 in 5 of those bites require medical attention. 

Dog bites can cause various injuries, including :

  • Lacerations
  • Puncture wounds
  • Fractures
  • Infections 

Infections are particularly concerning because they can spread quickly and cause severe complications if not treated promptly.

The usual telltale signs of a dog bite infection are :

  • Redness and swelling around the bite area: This is a common sign of infection and may indicate inflammation and the body's response to bacteria in the wound.
  • Pain and tenderness: If the bite wound is tender or painful to the touch, it may be a sign of infection or inflammation.
  • Pus or discharge: If you notice pus or other discharge oozing from the wound, it may indicate the presence of bacteria or other microorganisms.
  • Warmth around the bite area: An infected wound may feel warmer than the surrounding skin due to inflammation and increased blood flow to the area.
  • Fever: If you develop a fever after a dog bite, it could be a sign of a more serious infection. This is particularly true if the fever is accompanied by other symptoms like chills or fatigue.
  • Lymph node swelling: If you notice swelling in your lymph nodes (especially those closest to the wound), it may be a sign that your body is fighting an infection.
  • Increased redness spreading from the wound: If you notice the redness around the wound spreading or becoming more intense over time, it could indicate that the infection is spreading.
  • Reduced mobility or difficulty moving: If the bite wound is on a limb, you may notice reduced mobility or difficulty moving the affected limb due to pain and inflammation.

Types of Dog Bite Infections

There are several forms of infections that can occur after a dog bite. The good news is most infections can be treated with antibiotics or vaccines. 


Rabies is a life-threatening viral infection transmitted via saliva from infected animals. Affecting the nervous system, untreated rabies can prove fatal. Symptoms may take weeks to manifest, making immediate medical attention crucial if bitten by an unvaccinated dog. Post Exposure prophylaxis, a vaccine administered at the time of the bite, is the optimal rabies treatment.


Cellulitis is a bacterial infection affecting the skin and subcutaneous tissue post-dog bite. Bacteria causing cellulitis enter the body through broken skin, resulting in erythema, edema, and warmth around the bite site. Severe cases may spread to other body parts, causing fever, chills, and difficulty moving the affected limb. A full antibiotic course offers the quickest cure to cellulitis.


Capnocytophaga is commonly found in dog and cat mouths, this bacteria type can infect humans, especially those with compromised immune systems. Capnocytophaga infection symptoms include fever, chills, fatigue, vomiting, and diarrhea. In severe cases, life-threatening sepsis may develop. A full antibiotic course also eradicates this bacterial infection.

Staph and Strep

Staphylococcus and Streptococcus bacteria commonly cause infections following dog bites. These bacteria can incite various skin infections, including impetigo, folliculitis, and abscesses. In severe cases, infections may spread to other body parts, resulting in sepsis. Antibiotics can eliminate this infection within 1-3 weeks.

What Should I Do After Getting Bit By A Dog? 

If your wound appears to be infected, seeking immediate medical attention is crucial in receiving a proper diagnosis and treatment. Another option to keep in mind is legal action. If you were bitten by a dog who’s owner showed gross negligence, you may be able to sue. Under California law, you have two years from the date of the dog bite to file suit against the owner. Be sure to get the dog owners contact information, take photographs of your injuries and save any communications of the owner possibly admitting guilt. 

What If I Have a Lump Under My Skin After a Dog Bite?

Discovering a lump under your skin after a dog bite can be quite unsettling. But before you jump to conclusions, it's important to understand what might be causing this lump and how to deal with it.


This is one of the most common reasons for a lump after a bite. An abscess forms when the body's immune system is trying to fight off bacteria that entered the wound. It's essentially a pocket filled with pus, dead tissue, and white blood cells. Warmth, redness, and pain typically accompany an abscess.


If the dog's teeth injured a blood vessel, you might develop a hematoma—a collection of blood outside of a blood vessel. This can feel like a firm lump under the skin and might appear bruised.

Scar Tissue

As the wound heals, scar tissue can form, especially if the bite was deep or large. This tissue feels firmer than the surrounding skin and may remain as a permanent reminder of the bite.

Foreign Body Reaction

Occasionally, something foreign, like a dog's tooth fragment, might get lodged in the wound. The body can react to this by forming a lump around the foreign object.

Self-Treatment and Prevention After a Dog Bite Infection

Not every dog bite results in infection. Depending on the situation, you may be able to administer first aid to yourself, or you may need emergency medical attention. 

Here are some self treatment steps you can take 

  • Clean the wound with soap and water as soon as possible, holding it under running water for several minutes to flush out any bacteria.
  • If the wound is bleeding, apply pressure with a clean cloth to stop the bleeding.
  • Cover the wound with a sterile bandage.
  • Elevate the affected area to help reduce swelling and pain.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help manage pain.
  • Apply an antibiotic ointment to the wound to help prevent infection.
  • Monitor the wound closely for any signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or pus.

The world health organization also suggests some steps dog bite victims can take for treatment and prevention. If you suspect that you or someone else has an infected dog bite, it's essential to seek medical attention as soon as possible to prevent the infection from getting worse. 


For bacterial infections, antibiotics are usually the first line of defense. Always complete the prescribed course to ensure the bacteria are completely eradicated.


If there's a risk of rabies, a series of rabies vaccinations might be necessary. It sounds scarier than it is, but it can be a VERY helpful step.

Contact Our Trusted Dog Bite Attorneys To Represent You

Our experienced legal team at West Coast Trial Lawyers is here to assist you in seeking compensation for any injuries you’ve sustained from a dog bite. WCTL has represented hundreds of dog bite victims across California and recovered over 1 billion dollars in settlements. 

The founder and president of WCTL is a former federal prosecutor and Harvard graduate. Neama Rahmani has built an expert legal team, composed of super lawyers and talented individuals ready to assist you every step of the way. 

Whether you have incurred medical expenses, lost income, endured pain and suffering, or experienced any other damages, we will work tirelessly to win the full compensation you deserve.

Contact us today by calling 888-407-7969 or filling out our contact form to schedule a free consultation with our amazing, caring, and compassionate legal team.

Frequently Asked Questions About Dog Bites

What should I do immediately after a dog bite?

Clean the wound with soap and water and consult a doctor.

Are all dog bites infectious?

Not all, but it's essential to treat every bite seriously due to the potential for infection.

How do I know if my bite is infected?

Signs of infection include increased redness, swelling, pus, or if the wound becomes increasingly painful.

Can a vaccinated dog transmit infections?

While vaccinations reduce the risk, no measure is 100% effective. Always seek medical advice after a bite.

How can I prevent dog bites?

Understand dog behavior, avoid sudden movements, and never disturb a dog while it's eating or sleeping.

More Resources on Dog Bites

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