ZocdocAnswersHow should a dog bite be treated?

Question

How should a dog bite be treated?

My friend's dog bit my hand. It doesn't look too bad and doesn't hurt too much either. I don't want to get a dog disease though. How should I treat the dog bite?

Answer

There are definitely some different diseases that you can get from a dog bite. The first, and probably the most important sickness to know about is rabies. The rabies virus is in the Lyssavirus family, and if the dog is infected, it can infect the person (or other animal) that it bites. The rabies virus then infects peripheral nerves and works its way backwards towards the central nervous system. If it makes it to the brain, it can cause an irreversible encephalitis that unfortunately typically leads to the demise of the host. Now usually if the dog was infected, it would be showing symptoms. But it is still worth asking your friend if his dog it up to date on its rabies shots. A much more common infection (and typically less serious) is a bacterial infection with Pasteurella multocida a bacteria that grows commonly in the mouth of a dog. An infection with Pasteurella would present initially with localized inflammation (redness and swelling) and can cause a local cellulitis (infection of the soft tissues). If this goes untreated the bacteria can make it into the blood stream (sepsis) and cause many other problems. If the bite on your hand has any signs of inflammation, I would recommend going to your primary care physicians office to get it looked at, or go to an emergency clinic if needed. But again I would ask your friend about the rabies shot, because if it hasn't, then you should go to the emergency department to get treated. Best of luck.

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

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.