Why you may need a tetanus shot after a dog bite

| Dec 16, 2020 | Dog Bite |

If you were bitten by a dog and that bite broke the skin, it’s a good idea to have it checked out by a doctor as soon as possible. Even if the bite isn’t severe enough to head straight to the emergency room, it’s wise to see a doctor within a day or two at the most. 

In addition to whatever treatment and medication (like antibiotics) your doctor prescribes, they’ll probably ask you when you last had a tetanus shot. If it’s been at least five years, they may strongly recommend that you get one. 

What is tetanus and how do you get it from a dog bite?

First, it’s important to know that it’s rare for a domesticated dog to have tetanus. It’s caused by a bacterial toxin. If your wound got dirt in it, it’s somewhat more likely you could contract it.

Tetanus is a disease that affects the nervous system. It can have some serious symptoms. It can cause the neck and jaw muscles to contract. In fact, tetanus is sometimes called “lockjaw.” 

In addition to this painful cramping and stiffness, tetanus can cause muscle spasms, seizures and increased heart rate. It can also impact the ability to breathe, which can be fatal. The mortality rate is 30% overall and goes up to 50% in people over 60. 

That’s why it’s better to be safe and get revaccinated for tetanus if, as with most adults, it’s been many years since your original tetanus vaccination. The shot should be administered within 48 hours of the bite. That’s one more reason not to delay seeking medical attention.

The consequences of a bite can be big – even if the dog is little

Even a bite by a small dog can be painful and debilitating (as many people who have been bitten on the hand by a chihuahua will confirm). Bites by larger dogs – particularly when the victim is a child – can be extremely serious and perhaps even require plastic surgery. 

Whatever the situation, if you or your child has been bitten by a dog belonging to someone else, you likely have the right to seek compensation for your medical treatment and other expenses and damages from those responsible for the dog. An experienced attorney can help you make sure you get the compensation you need.