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Dog Bite Injuries

Each year, over 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs. Because of the strength of their jaws, dogs can cause horrible injuries that require hospitalization and surgery. Unfortunately, many people also die each year from dog maulings—around 20-30 a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Dog bite injuries can range from the superficial to the deadly, but many will require thousands of dollars in medical care. If you need legal assistance after a dog bite injury, reach out to a Slappey & Sadd dog bite attorney today for a free case evaluation.

Puncture Wounds and Lacerations

A dog’s teeth can puncture the skin, leading to bleeding and soft tissue damage. As the victim tries to pull away from the dog, they can also suffer lacerations and abrasions, especially if the dog does not release the body part easily.

Once you have freed your limb, try to stop the bleeding immediately by applying pressure with a clean towel. If necessary, elevate the affected limb above the heart to slow bleeding. If the wound broke the skin or you cannot stop bleeding, head straight to the hospital. Deep puncture wounds can lead to an infection and can cause scarring, so the sooner you get treatment, the better.

Nerve Damage

A serious dog bite can damage nerve endings, which can lead to pain and possible paralysis if the nerve endings die. If the dog bit a person’s face, then part of their face could be paralyzed. After a bite, note any pain, numbness, tingling, or burning sensation that you feel. These symptoms might signal nerve damage, which requires prompt attention.


Some dog breeds exert tremendous force when they get a limb between their jaws. Unsurprisingly, they can fracture bones in the hands, arms, and legs. Fractures almost always result in other soft tissue injuries, such as damage to tendons, ligaments, muscles, and nerves. As a person frantically tries to get away from a dog, they can twist or pull their limb from the dog’s mouth, causing additional damage.

A doctor will need to set a broken bone and, if the break is serious enough, insert a pin or screw to hold the pieces together. Soft tissue damage might also require surgery to repair. Patients with fractures can be out of commission for weeks or months.


Multiple harmful bacteria thrive in a dog’s saliva, including Pasteurella, Staphylococcus, and Streptococcus. A dog bite can transfer those bacteria into your bloodstream, leading to infection. Even minor dog bites can become infected, so pay close attention to your wounds. Classic symptoms of infection include:

  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Warmth
  • Pain
  • Pus drainage

If you think a wound is infected, get to a doctor right away. A doctor can prescribe a regimen of antibiotics to stave off an infection, but you must remember to take the full regimen so that the infection does not come back stronger.


When a dog really mauls a person, it can cause permanent damage and even disfigure the body. Facial disfigurement can be enormously traumatic. Victims can have their lives permanently changed because a dog has mangled their facial features.

About 27,000 people need reconstructive surgery each year because of dog bites. The surgery can help minimize the damage somewhat, but the sad fact is that many dog bite victims will still have permanent facial scarring, often leading to depression, anxiety, or social withdrawal.


Rabies is a rare but often fatal disease that affects the central nervous system. The law requires dog owners to vaccinate against rabies, but many owners might neglect to do so, putting victims at risk when a dog bites them.

Immediately after a dog bite, it is important to identify the dog owner whenever possible, since you need to collect information from them regarding the dog’s vaccination history. The police might also need to quarantine the dog and watch for symptoms of rabies to develop over the next week.

A doctor can give you a rabies vaccine, which is effective if you take it early enough. For this reason, you should always visit a doctor after a dog bite. Based on the information you collect, a doctor can help you decide whether to get the rabies shot.


Some people think tetanus and rabies are the same thing, but they are distinct. Tetanus is caused by a neurotoxin, whereas rabies is caused by a virus. If left untreated, tetanus can lead to muscle stiffening and spasms. Spasms are often so intense that victims suffer bone fractures, as well as rapid heartbeat and increased blood pressure.

To protect yourself, you should get a tetanus shot soon after the dog bite. Many people have a tetanus shot as children or teens and then get a booster every 10 years. However, for added protection, you can receive a tetanus booster after the dog bite.

Anxiety and Emotional Trauma

The psychological and emotional injuries from dog bites can be as serious as the physical injuries. Emotional injuries - such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - can lead to depression, sleeplessness, and weight loss. When many people are feeling emotional distress, they also are at greater risk of coming down with a physical illness.

Children are particularly vulnerable. In fact, at least half of all dog bite victims are between the ages of 5 and 9. Young children can develop an irrational fear of dogs and suffer from anxiety for the rest of their lives whenever they are around canines.

Psychological trauma often requires a mixture of psychotherapy and medication to treat. Medication can help treat the symptoms of anxiety, sleeplessness, and depression, while therapy can help victims cope with the terrifying experience so they can face their future unafraid.

Contact an Atlanta Dog Bite Attorney Today

Dog bites are not minor injuries. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average dog bite claim is quickly approaching $40,000. This is only the average, and some victims will require much more to cover medical expenses, replace lost wages, and compensate for pain and suffering.

If a dog has mauled you, please reach out to us today. One of the Atlanta dog bite lawyers at Slappey & Sadd can meet with you to discuss your case. Our initial consultations are free and confidential, so please call 404.255.6677 or submit a contact form.

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