Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Overview Incidence Symptoms Evaluation Treatment rabies tetanus Home Care pain in adults pain in children warning signs Outlook Complications

Bite Dog Treatment

Treatment for a dog bite usually includes wound cleansing and irrigation, antibiotics, and tetanus vaccination. Rabies vaccination may be recommended in some cases of dog bite.

Treatment for a dog bite may include:

  • Antibiotics for wounds
  • Wound irrigation
    • Rinsing the wound
  • Wound cleansing
  • Wound exploration
  • Wound debridement:
    • Removal of dead or dirty tissue
    • Removal of foreign bodies in the wound
  • Tetanus vaccination
  • Rabies prevention
  • Surgery to repair damaged tissue

Bite Dog Rabies

Animals that may carry rabies include:

  • Bats
  • Cats
  • Cattle
  • Dogs
  • Foxes
  • Raccoons
  • Skunks

Rodents and rabbits rarely carry rabies.

Dogs and cats can carry rabies if they are not up-to-date on rabies vaccinations. However, rabies is very rare in dogs and cats. Animal Control personnel decide whether an animal should be observed for signs of rabies over a 10 day period. The animal is considered safe if it does not show signs of rabies over the 10 day period. If the animal cannot be captured, the Animal Control officer and physician will decide whether rabies vaccines should be given to someone who has been bitten.

Bite Dog Tetanus

Dog bites rarely cause tetanus. Most children born in the US have received three tetanus shots (boosters) in the past, because these boosters are part of the usual vaccination schedule. Additional tetanus boosters are given every 10 years.

Those who require treatment to prevent tetanus include:


Dirty wounds include:
  • Wounds that occur outdoors
  • Wounds that contain dirt or foreign material
  • Wounds caused by bites

Treatment Options

Tetanus Vaccine and TIG Recommendations
HistoryClean, Minor WoundOther Wounds
< 3 boostersgive Tdgive Td + TIG
3 boosterspossible Tdpossible Td

Clean and minor wounds may need a booster if it has been more than 10 years since the last tetanus vaccine. Other wounds may need a booster if it has been more than 5 years since last tetanus vaccine.

Continue to Bite Dog Home Care

Last Updated: Dec 9, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Bite Dog References
  1. Brook I. Management of human and animal bite wounds: an overview. Adv Skin Wound Care. 2005 May;18(4):197-203. [15920371]
  2. Brook I. Microbiology and management of human and animal bite wound infections. Prim Care. 2003 Mar;30(1):25-39, v. [12825249]
  3. Correira K. Managing dog, cat, and human bite wounds. JAAPA. 2003 Apr;16(4):28-32, 34, 37. [14968515]
  4. Talan DA, Citron DM, Abrahamian FM, Moran GJ, Goldstein EJ. Bacteriologic analysis of infected dog and cat bites. Emergency Medicine Animal Bite Infection Study Group. N Engl J Med. 1999 Jan 14;340(2):85-92. [9887159]
  5. Wolff KD. Management of animal bite injuries of the face: experience with 94 patients. J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 1998 Jul;56(7):838-43. [9663574]
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