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Why Do You Need a Tetanus Shot After a Dog Bite?

Published on Mar 12, 2024 at 7:33 pm in Personal Injury.

Why Do You Need a Tetanus Shot After a Dog Bite

Dog bites are a common occurrence. In the United States, around 4.5 million people are bitten each year, and about 800,000 require some medical treatment.  Sometimes, you may know the owner and be able to get a record of the pet’s vaccination status.

Other times, these bites come from loose dogs that don’t seem to have owners.  

In any case, you will want to seek immediate treatment for these injuries. Any dog bite, especially one that breaks the skin, carries the risk of infection. In a few instances, you may even need a series of shots to protect against diseases such as rabies or tetanus.  

Here are a few reasons you need a tetanus shot after a dog bite.  

Why a Tetanus Shot Is Important 

Tetanus is caused by the bacterium Clostridium tetani, which can produce a toxin affecting the nervous system. The toxin binds to nerve endings, blocking the release of neurotransmitters that send signals between nerve cells.  

When this happens, it can cause muscle spasms and stiffness. Tetanus can cause severe muscle rigidness on rare occasions, leading to breathing difficulties and fractures.  

Unfortunately, there have been cases where the disease has turned fatal. 

These symptoms often appear around 7 to 21 days after an infection. Spasms in the neck, jaws, and abdominal muscles are common. Once tetanus moves through the body, it can affect other areas, causing more distressing symptoms, such as: 

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Fever
  • High blood pressure

Tetanus is often found in animal feces and saliva. So, when a dog bites you and breaks the skin, that bacteria can be introduced into the open wounds.  

Any wounds that are deep and dirty increase the risk of an infection, as well.  

While you might have had a tetanus shot in the past, it is recommended that you get a boost after a dog bite incident, especially if it has been longer than five years since your last shot.  

What to Do If a Dog Bites You 

If a dog bites you, you will want to seek medical attention immediately. Whether it’s a minor nip or a more severe bite, follow these steps after being bitten by a dog: 

Clean the Wound 

Dog bites can introduce bacteria that can enter your body through the open wound. For that reason, you will want to use warm water and mild soap to clean the wound. You don’t want to scrub and damage the area, but you should try to remove any debris, dirt, and saliva.  

If you have over-the-counter antibiotics clean, feel free to apply and gently wrap the area with a sterile bandage. This can keep the area covered before you see a doctor.  

Get Immediate Medical Attention 

You will want to visit your doctor or emergency room, even if it is a minor bite. These healthcare providers will check for damage and instruct you to care for the areas.  

Sometimes, you will have to be on antibiotics to prevent or treat any infections.  

Unfortunately, if you haven’t had a tetanus shot, you may need to have a booster. Also, if the dog is unknown, you could need a rabies shot as well.  

Report the Bite 

You will want to collect their information if you know the dog’s owner. However, with a stray, you might not have access to the animal’s vaccination records.  

In the latter case, you must report the dog bite to the Animal Control and Rescue Center, the police department, or the Sheriff’s Office within 24 hours. The dog will be impounded and observed for rabies for 10 days at the shelter, a veterinary clinic, or the owner’s home. 

Monitor the Wound 

Sometimes, even with the best care, you could develop an infection. For that reason, you will want to monitor for any swelling, redness, or pus near the wound. If you have a fever or feel fatigued, that could be a sign that you need to get immediate medical assistance for the injury.  

Legal Issues for Dog Owners 

Louisiana follows strict liability when it comes to dog bites. Under La. Civ. Code Art. 2321, the dog’s owner is responsible for any injuries caused by their animal. However, if you are bitten by a dog, you must prove that: 

  • The owner did not take reasonable care to prevent injury
  • The dog was not provoked
  • The owner knew of the dog’s tendency to bite

The dog owner could sometimes face criminal charges, including jail time and a fine.  

In Baton Rouge, there are ordinances against dangerous dogs to protect residents from being attacked by known vicious animals. These owners are often negligent, allowing their animals to attack and, sometimes, kill innocent victims.  

If a dog has attacked you, you could have a case to claim a personal injury against a reckless or negligent pet owner. Consulting with a Baton Rouge dog bite lawyer can help determine your legal options.  

Get Legal Help for Your Dog Bite Injury Case 

Dogs can be loyal companions, but when they bite, it can cause significant injuries to you.  

At Bianca | Matkins, we can help with these cases. Our legal team will determine if the owner’s negligent or reckless action led to a dog bite.  

Free Case Review

Call us or fill out the form below to schedule a free and confidential case evaluation where we’ll hear your story and help you understand your legal options, advising you on what steps you can take next. If we can help with the next steps required, we will be happy to do so.

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