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A dog bit me and now I'm really sick! What now?

An unprovoked attack by a dog can be frightening and disorienting, but it is important to keep track of details regarding the animal, its owner and the medical treatment you require, along with any other disruptions to your life, such as time off work while you recover.

If the dog's bite punctured the skin, especially on the face or neck, seek medical attention. Dog bites can become infected or lead to tetanus or rabies. Even if you cleaned the wound yourself, your risk of infection is not eliminated.

How do I know if it is infected?

Approximately 10 to 15 percent of dog bites become infected since their mouths are full of bacteria. If you experience any of the following symptoms, the bite could be infected:

  • Tenderness or loss of feeling at the site
  • Red streaks emanating from the site
  • Pus or fluid draining from the bite

Some symptoms could indicate a more serious infection:

  • Fatigue
  • Chills or fever
  • Night sweats
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Muscle weakness
  • Tremors
  • Difficulty breathing

If any of these symptoms occur or worsen, you should get to a doctor immediately.

Could I get tetanus or rabies from a dog bite?

It is uncommon, yes, but possible. Since tetanus shots are only required every 10 years, it can be easy to forget when you last had one. If you exhibit any of the following symptoms, you will need emergency medical attention:

  • Stiff neck, abdominal or jaw muscles
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Body spasms

Unfortunately, tetanus is not curable and is often fatal. Even if you survive, you could suffer lifelong injuries. As for rabies, the only additional symptom than tetanus is convulsions. Fortunately, human rabies is rare.

Early treatment is key for either condition, so do not hesitate to get checked out as quickly as possible after a dog bite. A tetanus shot or treatment for rabies early enough could save your life.

Can I get compensation for my medical bills and lost income?

Once you address your medical issues, the bills will start coming and you might start feeling the effects of having missed work during your recovery. An attorney can help you seek compensation for these and other damages, such as physical and psychological scarring.

Dog owners are required to exercise reasonable control over their animals. Even if this is the first time the dog has bitten someone, that will not necessarily excuse the owner from liability. Your attorney can help you deal with insurance companies or even file a lawsuit if appropriate.

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