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How to Tell if a Dog Bite is Serious

Dogs can be exceptionally gentle and loyal companions. Unfortunately, they can also be extremely dangerous if their owners are negligent with their pets’ handling. Over 4.5 million people suffer dog bites in the United States every year, while more than 800,000 require medical treatment for their injuries.

Children make up the majority of dog bite victims, and are more susceptible to severe injuries due to bites. With dog attacks accounting for dozens of deaths annually, it’s critical not to underestimate the seriousness of a dog bite incident and seek medical attention promptly.

Working with a dog bite lawyer is key to protecting your rights and helping you pursue compensation for your or your child’s injuries.

Types of Dog Bite Injuries

A dog bite can cause various injuries, from tearing and breaking of tissue to bacterial infections.

Puncture wounds

Puncture wounds from a dog bite can be serious. The depth of the wound can make it difficult to heal properly, and deep wounds heighten the risk of infection and nerve damage. Large wounds also make you more likely to experience scarring. 

Victims should seek treatment for a puncture immediately. Your doctors will clean and dress your wound to prevent infection. If your puncture wound is more than a quarter of an inch deep, you may require stitches. If you already have an infection, your doctor can prescribe antibiotics to stop it from worsening. In some cases, you may need surgery to close the wound.


Tetanus, rabies, and sepsis are all possible infections caused by dog bites. Tetanus is a potentially fatal bacterial infection that affects the nervous system. Rabies is a viral infection transmitted to humans through an infected dog’s saliva (infected dogs are also more likely to bite). Sepsis is a condition that can be life-threatening and is caused by a chemical imbalance when your body tries to fight infection.

To avoid a dog bite infection, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Tetanus shots are available at most medical facilities, while those exposed to rabies must immediately get a series of preventative shots. Rabies is 100% fatal if you don’t receive immediate attention.

In the case of sepsis, early diagnosis and treatment with IV fluids and antibiotics are necessary for a successful outcome.

Broken bones

Although dog bites rarely result in broken bones, it is still possible for a severe bone injury to occur. On average, a dog’s jaw can have twice the bite force of a human, and some breeds have up to three or four times a human’s bite force!

After a dog bite, you may experience a broken bone near a joint where the ligaments and tendons are weaker. If you are defending yourself against a larger breed, you may break your fingers, wrist, arm, or even your facial bones if you are knocked to the ground and depending on where you are bitten. 

Broken bones can require reparative surgery or casting. You may also need physical therapy to regain normal functioning after a dog bite breaks a bone.

Head and neck injuries

Head and neck injuries after dog attacks are often severe because they involve major blood vessels and nerves. In addition, the head and neck are vulnerable to infection. Children are particularly vulnerable to head and neck injuries from dog attacks. Canine bites constitute up to 40% of all pediatric traumas.

Warning Signs Your Dog Bite Needs Medical Treatment

Dog bites can range from minor scrapes or abrasions to devastating injuries. While most minor bites can be treated at home using a first aid kit, more serious wounds may require medical treatment.

Capnocytophaga, or bacterial infection, can result from bacteria in the dog’s mouth and cause septic shock, kidney failure, heart attack, and gangrene. 

Signs that an infection is developing include:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Pus
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea or stomach pain
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint pain

Assess the severity of your wounds. Visit a doctor if you have deep puncture wounds, broken limbs, torn skin, or are heavily bleeding.

You should also visit a doctor if you notice signs of an infection. Pay attention to any increased pain or changes in how the wound looks or feels. If you notice any of these warning signs or your symptoms worsen, seek medical treatment for the dog bite as soon as possible.

Filing a Dog Bite Claim in Wisconsin

According to Wisconsin law, dog owners are liable for damages caused by their dog, including bites and the associated medical bills. If you are a dog attack victim, you may be able to file a claim against the owner’s insurance company to recover damages.

If their homeowner’s or renter’s insurance company refuses to pay, you can work with a dog bite lawyer to take your case to court. A dog bite attorney can help you pursue compensatory damages, including economic damages like medical bills and lost wages, and non-economic damages such as loss of enjoyment of life, emotional distress, and pain and suffering.

To win compensation, you need to provide evidence that the dog bite occurred and that you suffered harm (such as infection, medical bills, scarring, or a new phobia of dogs) as a result. You can prove your claim by providing medical records, witness statements, or other documentation, such as evidence of the dog owner’s prior negligence.

When to Contact a Lawyer

If another party’s negligent handling of their dog leads to an attack in which you suffer injuries, work with a Green Bay dog bite lawyer to file a claim. A skilled attorney at our law firm can help you gather the necessary evidence to prove your claim and hold the responsible party accountable for their negligence. We work tirelessly to pursue fair compensation against the dog owner on your behalf.

Contact Brian Hodgkiss Injury Lawyers today for a free, no-risk consultation.

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