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What Are the Long-Term Complications of Dog Bites?

Regardless of breed, temperament, or history of aggression, all dogs are capable of biting people—and sometimes, bites happen without warning or provocation. 

Some dog bites may appear to be only minor injuries, while others clearly result in significant damage to the skin, muscles, and other tissue. However, because of the risk of complications, all dog bites should be looked at and treated by a doctor as soon as possible.

If you or someone you love was bitten by a dog, getting immediate medical attention can help you avoid or mitigate some of the most common long-term complications, which can include the following.


Have you ever heard the phrase, “A dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s mouth?” The Animal Kennel Club says that’s a myth. Dogs’ mouths contain more than 600 different types of bacteria, and when they bite, their long, sharp teeth can push some of those bacteria deep into the skin, muscles, tissue, and even the bloodstreams of victims.

It’s important to immediately and thoroughly clean a dog bite injury, but doing so doesn’t always eliminate the risk of infection. Because bacteria get pushed so deep into wounds when dogs bite, infections often occur no matter how clean the surface area of the wound is. When doctors treat dog bite victims, they often give them antibiotics to help stop or reduce the severity of infections, but these treatments aren’t always 100% effective.


Rabies is one of the most feared infections in the world—and for good reason. Without immediate treatment during the virus’s incubation period, it has a 100% mortality rate. In some animals, including humans, rabies infections usually take around 2-3 months to become symptomatic after bites from infected animals, but the process is known to take anywhere from one week to one year.

Thankfully, rabies is rare in the U.S., especially in domestic animals like dogs. Most pet dogs are vaccinated against rabies, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says only around 60-70 dogs are reported as rabid each year in the U.S. If you’re bitten by a dog, it’s important to ask the owner about the dog’s rabies vaccination status as soon as possible. If you’re bitten by a stray dog, see a doctor immediately to discuss if you need a rabies vaccine.

Nerve Damage

Dogs’ long, sharp teeth not only push bacteria deep into skin and muscle tissue, but they can also penetrate deeply enough to damage nerves. In some cases, nerve damage heals on its own or can be surgically repaired, but in many cases, nerve damage is permanent. When nerves are damaged or severed during dog bites, they can cause victims to lose some or all control over certain body parts.

For example, people who are bitten on their hands may lose control over one or more fingers. They also may struggle with fine motor skills, such as typing, writing, operating machinery, and more. This loss of dexterity and fine motor skills can be devastating for many workers across a wide variety of industries and occupations.


Dog bite victims are often left with large scars after their dog bites heal, even after receiving stitches to help close the wounds. In some cases, victims may need debridement, which is the surgical removal of infected or severely damaged skin tissue. And in severe cases, amputation has been used to help stop the spread of infection and to remove severely damaged body parts.

Scarring, debridement, and amputation can have traumatic effects on victims’ lives. Not only do they negatively alter their appearance, but they also serve as constant reminders of the traumatic experience they went through when they were attacked.

Psychological Injuries

Being bitten by a dog is painful, frightening, and traumatic. Because many dog bites occur without warning or provocation, victims are often taken by complete surprise. The sudden violent nature of dog bites can cause victims to develop long-term psychological injuries, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The psychological aftermath of a dog bite injury can linger long after the physical effects of the injury have healed. For example, some victims may develop a lifelong fear of dogs, while others may be afraid of walking in residential areas, parks, or trails because of the possibility of encountering a dog. Other victims may be forced to quit occupations that put them into contact with dogs, such as veterinary, grooming, walking, boarding, and other jobs.

Our Oklahoma Dog Bite Injury Lawyers Can Help After an Attack

Whether you or a loved one were bitten by a dog owned by a friend, family member, or coworker, or if the dog that attacked you was owned by a complete stranger, you can and should pursue compensation. Your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering are significant, and if you don’t file an injury claim, you may be forced to pay for them out of your own pocket.

At Parrish DeVaughn Injury Lawyers, our Oklahoma dog bite attorneys understand how bites can impact victims’ lives for years or even decades after they occur. That’s why it’s our goal to help victims like you get maximum compensation not just for your current damages, but for your future damages, too. Contact us today for a free case review.