Your aunt’s temperamental Pomeranian bit you on the hand. While it hurt, you didn’t think it was anything serious because the dog was so small. Now, however, your hand is hot, swollen and tender near the bite. Should you be worried?

Yes. It doesn’t take a big dog to cause serious damage from a bite because the real danger is often found in tiny bacteria and germs in the dog’s mouth that are invisible to the naked eye. Those things get transferred deep within your skin, muscle and blood when a dog’s tooth creates a puncture wound.

What symptoms do you need to worry about after a dog bite?

In general, if you’ve been bitten by a dog and the dog’s teeth broke your skin, it’s smartest to seek medical treatment right away. Washing the wound with antibacterial soap and a prophylactic antibiotic may be your best defense against infection. On the chance that you don’t seek treatment right away or you’re worried that treatment was ineffective, it’s time to be concerned when:

  • You have discolored or smelly fluid oozing from the bite
  • The tenderness in the area seems worse, not better, with time
  • You develop a fever or have cold chills
  • You notice a “dead” area around the bite where there’s no sensation
  • You see red streaks on your skin near the bite that are growing
  • The wound feels hot to the touch, or your lymph nodes swell up
  • You develop problems breathing, feel weak or experience tremors

Dog bites, even minor ones, can be particularly problematic for people who have weaker immune systems, such as very young children, the elderly and anyone on immunosuppressants.

Any dog bite injury can turn serious. If you or your loved one was attacked by a dog, find out what right you have to financial compensation.