ZocdocAnswersCan you get an infection from an animal bite?

Question

Can you get an infection from an animal bite?

My friend's dog bit my hand. It is just a couple of red marks right now but I'm scared that it will give me an animal disease or an infection. Should I have a tetanus shot? Do dog bites give you infections?

Answer

Animal bites, especially dog and cat bites, are very common in the United States. You are right to be concerned about the possibility of complications following a dog bite. It is very important to see your primary care doctor immediately, or go to an urgent care doctor or emergency room if your physician is unavailable. Any bite that has pierced the skin usually requires antibiotic prophylaxis, which means that you take a course of antibiotics to prevent an infection from occurring. Dog's mouths contain many bacteria that can potentially cause very serious infections of the skin. It is also possible that the infection will spread to the bone and cause osteomyelitis, which is very difficult to treat. It is also important to make sure that you get a tetanus shot if the wound broke the skin. Make sure you clean the wound thoroughly and keep it dry and clean. Try to keep your hand elevated as much as possible. It is also important to make sure that the dog that bit you has had all of its appropriate vaccinations. Please see a physician immediately to treat your wound and prevent a potentially serious complication from your bite.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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