Medical News Today: What happens if a dog bite gets infected?

Bites on the hands or feet carry a higher risk of infection. Certain infections from dog bites can be very serious and lead to complications. Without treatment, these infections can be fatal.


If people have a Capnocytophaga infection from a dog bite, they may have the following symptoms:

  • blistering around the wound
  • redness, swelling, and pain around the wound
  • oozing from the wound
  • fever
  • vomiting and diarrhea
  • headaches
  • joint pain

Symptoms can appear between 1 and 14 days after a dog bite. The following factors can increase a person’s risk of infection:

  • excessive alcohol use
  • not having a spleen
  • the presence of health conditions that affect the immune system
  • taking medications that can damage cells, such as chemotherapy

Without treatment, complications of Capnocytophaga infection can include:

A doctor will prescribe antibiotics to treat a Capnocytophaga infection.


Untreated animal bites can sometimes lead to sepsis. Sepsis is a severe reaction to infection, and it can be life threatening. Signs of sepsis include:

  • high or low body temperature
  • confusion
  • extreme daytime sleepiness
  • severe pain or discomfort

If a person suspects that they have sepsis, they should seek immediate medical attention. A doctor will treat sepsis with antibiotics and intravenous fluids.


People can get rabies if a dog that has rabies bites them. The first symptoms of rabies are:

  • a headache, fever, and other flu-like symptoms
  • weakness
  • an itching or prickling feeling around the bite

Rabies is fatal if a person does not receive treatment. People should see their doctor straight away if they think that the dog that bit them might have rabies. Postexposure rabies vaccination can treat the infection.


A dog bite can cause tetanus bacteria to enter the body. Symptoms of tetanus include:

  • cramping in the jaw
  • muscle spasms, usually in the stomach
  • difficulty swallowing
  • muscle stiffness

Tetanus is a serious infection. People with any symptoms of tetanus need immediate medical attention. They will require medications, such as antibiotics, as well as a tetanus vaccine.

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