- Skin damage
- Injury to underlying tissues such as muscle, nerve, and bone
It’s simple to see that the skin has been harmed in a dog bite, but it’s also necessary to analyze the underlying structures that may have been hurt as well. The patient is often concerned about the wound’s cosmetic look; while this is important, the health care provider may be more concerned about injuries that will affect the body’s function. A cut to the hand, for example, may appear to be painful, but a lacerated tendon that prevents a finger from moving is far more serious.
Find out if the dog that bit you has current rabies immunizations. If the dog has not been immunized for rabies, the question becomes whether to immunize the patient against the rabies virus. A variety of approaches may be considered depending upon the situation surrounding the bite.
- Is the dog available to be observed?
- Was the bite provoked or defensive rather than an unprovoked attack?
- Where is the bite located?
- What is the past medical history of the victim?
Once the doctor or other healthcare professional has taken a history of the events and examined the patient, most dog bites can be cared for in the emergency department, urgent care centers, or a doctor’s office. The physical exam will help decide whether any deep structures like muscle, tendon, nerve, or bone have been damaged.
Commonly, the wound is anesthetized so that it can be explored. This will help confirm the condition of the deep structures and their function. The wound will then be washed with normal saline (a salt-water solution) to irrigate out as much dirt and bacteria as possible.
After the wound has been cleaned, the decision on whether or not to close the skin must be made.
The danger of infection increases when the skin is stitched (to make the scar look nicer).
The location of the injury and the doctor-patient discussion play a role in weighing the risk of infection against the advantages of a better-looking scar. Dog bites to the face are usually sutured, although bites to less visible portions of the body may be allowed to heal on their own. If there is significant skin damage or loss, or if there are other ailments that need to be treated, dog bite wounds may require surgery to fix.
Some dogs bite people. Because of the necessity for a protracted anesthesia to keep the patient motionless, surgery may be required to treat lacerations in infants and toddlers, especially if face wounds are involved.
There is some controversy regarding antibiotic therapy for dog bites. Some doctors routinely prescribe antibiotics while others choose to wait until the wound shows signs and symptoms of potential infection.