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Home Pet Q&A Dog Questions Do I Need a Tetanus Shot After a Dog Bite?

Do I Need a Tetanus Shot After a Dog Bite?

In most cases, your doctor will recommend a tetanus shot after a dog bite if you haven't had a tetanus shot within the past five years. While there are no statistics on how many cases of tetanus have passed from dogs to humans, and tetanus is rare in dogs, there is still a chance that a dog bite can transmit tetanus to humans. A dirty wound presents a higher risk, but your doctor is likely to order a tetanus shot for any bite that has broken the skin.

When To Get A Tetanus Shot 

Even if you're able to clean up the wound yourself, you should still visit a doctor immediately after being bitten. Tetanus shots may need to be administered within 48 hours to be most effective. The doctor may discuss whether you need other treatment which may include antibiotics and, in some cases, rabies shots.

Why Do I Need A Tetanus Shot If The Disease Is Rare In Dogs? 

It's rare—not unheard of. The mortality rate for tetanus is 30% and it's more than 50% in patients over 60. That's why administering the shot following a dog bite is standard procedure.

Symptoms of Tetanus 

If you did not get the shot and are worried you may have contracted tetanus from a dog bite, here are some symptoms to look out for:

  • Jaw Cramping
  • Involuntary Muscle Spasms
  • Painful Stiffness
  • Headache
  • Seizures
  • Fever
  • Elevated Heart Rate 

The chances of contracting tetanus from a dog bite are slim, but out of an abundance of caution it is best to follow the advice of your doctor if he/she recommends getting a tetanus shot following a bite. 

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