I got bit by a dog.
I had gone to a home to make contact with a family. I saw no evidence of a dog, so walked up to the door. Suddenly a dog on a chain came out of nowhere. He jumped up on me, and I threw up my hands in a defensive move that I now believe resulted in accidental contact with one of the dog’s teeth. I also have a long bruise down my right leg where he jumped up on me. The dog backed me up to my car, and barked at me, but didn’t attempt to bite me. Once in my car I realized I’d sustained a puncture wound on the top of my left hand.
Accident though it may have been, it was still a puncture wound sustained from contact with a dog’s teeth- a dog about which I knew nothing.
I was sent to a clinic affiliated with our workers comp program. Staff filled out lots of paperwork while my hand soaked. One of the forms completed reported the bite to the local health department. The doc wrote a scrip for an antibiotic and told me to come back in 4 days.
The next day, my hand began to swell. Where the day before I was able to somewhat use my hand, by Monday it was basically useless. I couldn’t write or type with that hand (I’m left-handed), and lifting was not possible either.
The local Health Department called me, and advised that local animal control officials would make contact with the dog’s owner to verify the dog’s rabies vaccinations are up-to-date. Thankfully, they were.
My hand continued to swell, so Tuesday morning I returned to the clinic. I sat in the waiting area for almost 2 hours, listening to clinic staff talk about how they really didn’t feel like being at work and the stories of a handful of men and women about to head overseas to work for military contractors. This time the doctor gave me antibiotic and steroid shots, then told me I had to go to the Health Department immediately to be evaluated for possible rabies.
Except that’s not proper protocol in the state of Florida. The Health Department said nope, we don’t work that way. If you’re bitten by an animal, the animal is to be quarantined for 10 days to evaluate for rabies. If the animal is owned, quarantine can consist of being watched at home. If a stray, the animal could be quarantined at the local animal control. After 10 days, if the biter is not sick, the bite victim is good to go.
The staffer at the Health Department was, however, concerned that the medical staff had not administered a tetanus booster, and insisted I go back to the clinic immediately for a tetanus shot. Seems if your last tetanus booster was over 5 years ago, and you’re bitten by a dog, the Florida Dept of Health recommends a booster. So back to spend another hour in the lobby of the clinic. I spent over 4 hours Tuesday dealing with this stuff.
Yet despite my efforts the day before, by Wednesday my hand was still swollen. At this point I decided a visit to my doctor was in order. He recommended a different type of antibiotic, and wrote me a prescription.
Today it’s been 5 days out. The swelling has lessened. Now my hand is very sore, which makes sense. The tooth bruised a tendon in my hand, and when I use my hand, I can feel it.
Seems like a lot of nonsense for one small puncture wound, doesn’t it? And yet, dog bites are nothing to sneeze about. So here’s the short form of what I learned about dog bites:
You need to obtain medical care. Perhaps it’s a small puncture like mine was, but it still needs to be checked out.
Many areas require an immediate call to animal control or law enforcement. Some areas also require the local health department be notified. Your best bet is to call your local non-emergency number for the police and report the dog bite. Local officials can verify the animal is up-to-date on rabies vaccinations, and save you possibly having to endure rabies shots.
It’s not uncommon for bite injuries to become infected, so even if you’re taking antibiotics, keep an eye on the wound, and follow-up with your doctor if you see signs of infection.
Dog bites can lead to tetanus, so if you’ve not had a tetanus shot within the last 5 years, get a booster.
If an off-leash dog comes after your leashed dog, let go of the leash and let them have at it. Best you be available to care for your injured dog, not tied up doing all this I’ve had to endure.
So, there you have it. One encounter with a dog led to one small puncture wound, two days missed work, three shots, five clinic visits (and counting), two prescriptions for antibiotics, and no use of my dominant hand for several days.