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Do you have to worry about tetanus after a dog bite?

| Mar 17, 2021 | Dog Bites/Attacks |

Most people are aware of the risk of rabies if they are bitten by a dog that has not been vaccination, but not everyone is familiar with the risk of developing tetanus. Tetanus can infect the body through scratches or bites, so it’s very important to make sure that you are up to date on your own inoculation at all times.

Tetanus is a dangerous, potentially deadly, disease. The clostridium tetani bacteria can be found in soil, dust and animal waste, so if a dog has recently ingested or played in any of these, then it could be present in them as well. Dogs can develop tetanus if they have open wounds that are not treated.

Should you get a tetanus shot after a dog bite?

It is a good idea to get a tetanus shot if you’re bitten by a dog, especially if you have not had a booster within the last five years. Though you have some resistance, that resistance does fade over time.

After a bite, the tetanus shot may be administered within three days (72 hours) and still be effective in fighting off the bacteria. If the disease is allowed to develop, it could cause:

  • Spasms in the jaw and neck
  • Stiffness in the jaw and neck
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Stiff abdominal muscles
  • Painful spasms that may last for several minutes
  • Sweating
  • High blood pressure
  • Fever
  • Rapid heart rate

Tetanus can cause such severe spasms that the spine and other bones can break. Blood clots that travel to the lungs, called pulmonary embolisms, are also possible due to the illness. In severe cases, the tetanic muscle spasms may interfere with your ability to breath. Some common causes of death include pneumonia or cardiac arrest brought on by the tetanus bacteria.

The good news is that tetanus can be prevented if you get vaccinated within three days of exposure. If you are bitten, make sure to ask for this vaccine if you have not had it within the last several years. Your priority should be to get as much medical care as possible to prevent infection and the risk of complications from this bite.