Symptoms of Tetanus from a Dog Bite

One of the first indications that a person might have lockjaw is that the muscles of his jaws involuntarily clench and cramp. Other signs include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Muscle spasms that you cannot control
  • Stiff, painful muscles throughout your body
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Sweats
  • Seizures that can appear as jerking or staring
  • Fast heartbeat

Complications of Tetanus

The muscle contractions associated with tetanus can be so severe that they break your bones, and the struggle to breathe precipitated by the disease can be lethal. Ten to 20 percent of people who contract tetanus die from it. People with lockjaw can experience pulmonary embolisms (blood clots that travel to a lung) and pneumonia. If a loved one passes away due to complications of tetanus, it may constitute a wrongful death claim.

Diagnosing Tetanus

Medical science does not yet have a laboratory test that can definitively diagnose tetanus. A doctor will examine the patient, look for symptoms, and use a process of elimination to rule out other possible causes of the patient’s condition.

Physicians consider tetanus a medical emergency. The patient will need hospitalization, where he should receive:

  • Human tetanus immune globulin (TIG) medication
  • Antibiotics
  • Drugs to stop the muscle spasms
  • Tetanus vaccine
  • Aggressive wound care

You might also need a machine to help you breathe.

How to Prevent Tetanus from a Dog Bite

Stay up to date with your tetanus vaccine. Tetanus shots do not last forever, so even if you have previously had a tetanus injection, you should talk with your doctor about whether you need a booster. In some situations, the shot is effective for ten years, but with particularly dirty wounds or in certain scenarios your doctor might recommend a booster every five years.

One component of preventing tetanus is to exercise aggressive wound care for every cut, scrape, scratch, puncture wound, animal bite, no matter how minor the injury appears to be. Wash the wound with soap and water, then apply antibiotic cream. Get professional medical attention if appropriate. You should get professional medical attention for every animal bite, as your physician needs to evaluate whether you need a tetanus shot, a rabies vaccine, or other medical intervention.

If your wound gets worse or shows any sign of infection, contact your doctor. If you develop any symptoms of tetanus, go to the emergency room immediately. Call our firm now at 404-474-0804 to find out more about dog bites causing tetanus.

Tetanus Does Not Spread from Person to Person

Unlike many other diseases that you can prevent with vaccines, you cannot catch tetanus from another person. The Clostridium tetani bacteria that causes tetanus is in the environment, usually in dust, soil, manure, and on contaminated objects, but the bacteria are also in the mouths of healthy dogs and other animals.

The bacteria must enter the body through cuts, scrapes, bites, puncture wounds, and other breaks in the skin. When a dog bites you, its teeth transmit the Clostridium tetani bacteria into your body. The bacteria create a poison that attacks your muscles and makes them contract beyond your control.

So, while you do not need to worry about your friends or family “catching” tetanus from you if a dog bite exposed you to the disease, you have to monitor your health closely with one of these wounds. It is always better to be safe than sorry in this situation.

Getting Help for Tetanus After a Dog Bite

First, get immediate medical care after any dog bite. One must take all dog bites seriously given the potential of multiple infections that can cause result in permanent nerve damage, amputation, or even death.

Jason R. Schultz
Helping Georgia area residents with car accident, medical malpractice, and personal injury claims since 1991.