How To Tell If A Dog Bite Is Infected, And Can You Sue?

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By Marcus Fernandez

The most recent survey by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) puts the dog population in the United States at 76.8 million with more than 38% of households having at least one dog. Dogs become members of the family, but complicating the relationship is that dogs will, under the right circumstances, bite.

Dog bites cause more than 600 people to be hospitalized each year in the Sunshine State. Regardless of the circumstances, a dog bite that punctures or breaks the skin can transmit rabies or become infected. The information provided in this article explains how to tell if a dog bite is infected, which may help you to avoid hospitalization through early treatment. It also looks at Florida law and your right to recover damages against the dog owner.

What Causes A Dog to Bite, and How To Prevent It

What may appear to be an unprovoked attack, comes in response to something that warrants, at least in the dog’s mind, an aggressive reaction. The AVMA lists some of the most common reasons that dogs bite, including: 

  • Defend its territory or itself. 
  • Protect its puppies, food or other things it values. 
  • Keep people away when it is injured or sick. 
  • Respond to a threat or when scared. 

A puppy or adult dog uses its mouth to nip and bite when playing with another dog. So, a bite that occurs while roughhousing with your neighbor’s dog should not come as a surprise.

Socialization and obedience training can lessen the likelihood of a dog feeling the need to protect itself and bite. It also helps for owners to learn and avoid situations that may trigger aggressive or protective behavior in their dogs.

An analysis conducted by the FDOH found that children under six years of age are the most frequent victims of dog attacks. Children should be taught to avoid approaching or playing with a dog without permission from the owner.

Diseases Transmitted by Dog Bites

A minor wound caused by a dog bite may not seem serious enough for the doctor’s office, but a dog bite can transmit disease or cause an infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dogs can spread the following diseases to humans either through a bite or by contact: 

  • Brucellosis. A bacterial disease that may cause flu-like symptoms in humans within six to eight weeks following contact with an infected dog. 
  • Capnocytophaga. A common bacteria found in the mouths of dogs can be transmitted to humans as a result of a dog bite. A person bitten by a dog may have blistering, redness and swelling around the wound and develop fever, muscle and joint pain, diarrhea and vomiting. 
  • Rabies. Although rabies in domestic animals is rare in the United States, dogs that come in contact with infected wild animals can be infected and transmit the disease to humans. Unless promptly treated, rabies can be fatal in humans. 

How to Tell if a Dog Bite is Infected

A dog’s mouth and saliva generally contain multiple types of bacteria to infect a person who is bitten. Common signs of wound infection include: 

  • Pain, redness and swelling at the wound site. 
  • Pus or fluid at the wound. 
  • Tenderness or loss of feeling at the site. 
  • Skin discoloration, including red streaks, at or near the wound. 
  • Fever. 

A dog bite that breaks the skin should be examined and treated by a doctor right away. At home, use a clean cloth or towel to stop the bleeding by applying pressure to the wound. Wash the wound with soap and water and apply an antibiotic and sterile bandage until you get to a doctor.

Recovering Compensation From a Dog Owner

If you are in a public pace or lawfully on private property when bitten by a dog, the law in Florida makes the dog owner liable for your injuries. This is unlike the laws in other states requiring knowledge of the dog’s vicious propensities to hold owners responsible.

Damages recoverable in a Tampa dog bite include: 

  • Cost of medical care and treatment. 
  • Earnings lost from being unable to work due to the injury. 
  • Pain and suffering. 
  • Future medical expenses, such as cosmetic surgery for scarring. 

A consultation with a Tampa personal injury lawyer with experience representing the victims of dog bites can offer valuable insight into your rights. Schedule a free case evaluation with our convenient contact form to talk with a lawyer at Kinney, Fernandez & Boire.