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Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care

Infection from Dog Bite Uncommon, But Can Be Fatal

By Anton Hout, author of The Guide to Aussie Training & Care

The risk of infection from dog bite is a real threat. Infections are not common, but they do occur and can cause permanent damage.

The normal flora within the mouths of dogs and cats includes many different kinds of bacteria, viruses and other illness-causing pathogens. The illnesses caused by the normal flora are referred to as zoonotic, because they can be transmitted from non-human animals to humans and vice versa

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The risks are greatest to people with existing health problems. Abnormal function of the spleen, heart, liver, kidneys or lungs increases the risk, because the pathogens are not quickly removed from the bloodstream.

Any immune system dysfunction impairs the body's ability to fight infections of all kinds. This is why it is important for anyone that is ill or has recently been ill to see their doctor when injuries of this kind occur.

Capnocytophaga canimorsus is a type of gram-negative bacterium found in the mouths of dogs and cats. It can cause sepsis; blood poisoning in lay terms. In a recently reported Swedish incident, permanent hearing loss occurred as a result of sepsis caused by a Capnocytophaga canimorsus dog bite infection.

Red tri Australian Shepherd, Jackson, standing in field.

Sam Kubista

Jackson is a red tri male Australian Shepherd shown here at 14 months old. He already has two blue ribbons in obedience!

Bartonella are intracellular parasites that can infect humans. Bartonella infections are said to be on the rise in some Chinese provinces. A recent study was conducted to determine the risk factors for contracting the parasitic infection.

The only risk factor identified by the researchers was being bitten by a dog. However, the parasites are generally transmitted by fleas. The actual risk factor could have been living with a dog, because pet owners are bitten more often than anyone else.

Another case of infection from dog bite from Capnocytophaga canimorsus was responsible for a man's death in Vienna, Austria. He was bitten by his own dog two days before he died. Autopsy revealed the presence of the bacteria.

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The dog bite infection caused his death because his spleen had been removed due to a previous unrelated injury. The spleen is one of the body's organs that creates infection-fighting antibodies and filters pathogens out of the bloodstream.

The case of the Austrian man is an example that bites need not look serious to cause death. All pet owners with pre-existing health problems should see their doctors after being bitten, even if there is only a scratch on the skin's surface. Antibiotics and other medications are used as treatments to prevent sepsis (and possibly death) from occurring.

Infection from dog bite can occur due to the bacteria naturally present on human skin. Staph and strep are most commonly involved in those infections. Treatment is usually successful. Without treatment, infections of the hip or knee joints can occur and cause chronic pain.

Preventing Infection From Dog Bite

Preventative measures should be taken to reduce the risks of infection. If there is no history of illness or other medical problem, the wound and the surrounding area should be washed with an antibacterial cleanser and rinsed under warm running water for several minutes. The water can rinse away parasites and viruses that are immune to antibacterial agents.

The risk of infection from dog bite can be further reduced by covering the wound with an antibiotic ointment, available without a prescription in the first aid section of any drug store. The wound should then be covered with a bandage, which should be changed twice a day.

When the bandage is changed, the wound should be checked for signs of infection, which include pus, redness, swelling and heat. If no signs of infection are present, the antibiotic ointment should be reapplied. This process should be repeated until the wound is healed.

Infection from dog bite can occur due to tetanus, rabies and many other types of pathogens. Bites should always be cared for properly and evaluated by a physician whenever necessary. icon

Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care

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