Do I need antibiotics for a dog scratch? Tips and Tricks

Potential Infections Can Occur from a Dog Scratch

Dogs walk on all four feet and dig in whatever they can find, which means dog nail beds are very dirty. They can harbor all sorts of bacteria and fungi that can readily infect humans through broken skin, including tetanus. Dogs also lick their paws, transferring bacteria from the mouth onto the nails. This can, in rare cases, infect humans with MRSA or bacteria called Capnocytophaga if the scratch breaks the skin.

“Can I get rabies from a dog scratch?” is a popular online search. Even though it is highly unlikely that a human will contract rabies from an animal scratch, it can still happen. The virus that causes rabies is spread through contact with saliva or brain tissue from an animal infected with rabies, but it cannot penetrate unbroken skin. If a rabid dog with saliva-covered nails scratches a human, theoretically infection can occur; however, most dogs are vaccinated against rabies and are not at risk for infection. If your dog has had contact with a rabid animal, take additional precautions and seek veterinary care immediately.

Signs of an infection from a scratch wound

While your dog scratch wound heals, look for the following possible signs of an infection:

  • increased redness and swelling
  • red streaks near the wound that aren’t scratches
  • fever
  • pus from the wound
  • weakness and fatigue
  • See a doctor if you notice any signs of infection from a dog scratch.

    Some dogs carry a bacteria in their mouths called Capnocytophaga. While these bacteria rarely spread to people, there’s still a chance of getting sick from exposure to an animal’s saliva, especially if you have a weakened immune system.

    Capnocytophaga infections can progress quickly, even becoming life-threatening. Possible symptoms related to this type of infection include:

  • swelling
  • redness and blisters
  • pus from the bite
  • fever
  • headache
  • muscle or joint aches
  • abdominal pain
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • Call or visit a doctor if you’re experiencing any signs of infection post-dog scratch. It’s also a good idea to seek medical attention any time you’ve been scratched by a dog — especially if the dog isn’t your own.

    In the case of a dog bite, you should seek medical care to rule out the risk of rabies and other potentially life-threatening diseases.

    Rabies is a type of viral infection that can occur when bitten by an animal that’s infected. This is a serious infection that can be fatal in both animals and humans, due to the virus’s attack on the nervous system.

    While animal-to-animal transmission is possible, it’s not as common for humans to be infected by household pets in the United States. Part of this reduced risk is attributed to rabies vaccines in domesticated animals.

    Still, rabies ought to be considered in the case of a serious wound from a dog, particularly if it’s a stray dog or one who hasn’t been vaccinated against rabies. The virus may be transmitted through an infected dog’s saliva from biting or accidental scratching.

    How a dog with rabies may behave

    A dog who is infected with rabies may have the following symptoms:

  • behavioral changes
  • reduced appetite
  • voice changes/changes to their barks
  • panting
  • anxiety and restlessness
  • attempted attacks on people and other animals
  • paralysis
  • Antibiotics dosage for dogs and puppies