Tetanus Dog Bite Information

Can your beloved pet dog give you a fatal Tetanus disease?

Thousands of people are bitten by an animal every year. And certain risks come from this. One of the most dangerous diseases you can contract from animals is Tetanus.

Various types of animals can carry this disease, but horses and lambs are the most susceptible while our beloved dog is actually more resistant to this disease than any other domestic mammal. However, because we are more likely to be bitten by a dog that has tetanus than a horse or a lamb, this is why we associate tetanus with dogs and dog bites.

Tetanus is a bacterial virus that is caused by the bacteria Clostridium Tetani. This bacteria is commonly found in soil, manure and dust. Therefore, it is easy for a dog to become infected with tetanus. If they have even a small wound on their body, and they walk in soil that has this bacteria they can become infected as it will enter the wound and it will thrive and grow in these conditions. The infected dog can then pass tetanus onto humans through its bite.

This type of bacteria is anaerobic meaning that they grow and thrive in conditions which have no oxygen. So a deep cut is the perfect breeding ground for Clostridium Tetani. If you have been bitten by a dog and the dog’s teeth have punctured your skin, you are more at risk of tetanus than if the dog nipped or scratched you as the open wound can allow the bacteria to enter your body, and this can lead to multiple problems.

Tetanus is commonly referred to as lockjaw due to the symptoms a person exhibits when they have been infected. Most people will experience muscle stiffness and muscle spasms which usually occur in the neck and the jaw hence the nickname “lockjaw”. Spasms of the limbs, back and abdomen can also occur and in severe cases these spasms can even cause fractures. This risk of fractures especially in the spine can in severe cases, cause paralysis and disability.

The infected person may also have trouble breathing and swallowing, and they may experience a fever, headaches, high blood pressure and rapid heart rate. The onset of symptoms is typically 3 to 21 days after infection.

Tetanus can be a fatal virus to humans with death occurring in 10-25% of cases. Therefore, usually one person in ten will die from tetanus. It is also incredibly dangerous for children as the lack of oxygen to the brain can cause permanent brain damage. However, if it is caught early, there is a high chance of survival if treated with an intravenous penicillin antibiotic.

Can you get Tetanus from a dog?

How is Tetanus diagnosed? 

If a dog bites you and it is infected, there is a chance that you have contracted tetanus from the infected dog also. However, because tetanus can breed and grow in even small wounds, you may not realize you have become infected especially considering the onset of symptoms can take up to three weeks to become visible. Also if the dog bite did not appear severe in nature at the time, you might not see the need to see a doctor for a tetanus shot or tests. This is why this disease can be hard to diagnose unless you have developed symptoms.

You also need to find the owner of the dog and ascertain whether it is up to date with its inoculations. If the dog that bit you is stray, you may be able to tell from looking at it, as dogs that are infected with tetanus, like humans, will have certain symptoms. These symptoms range from erect and stiff ears, excessive drooling and an overall stiff appearance due to muscle spasms and stiffness. One of the most notable signs seen in dogs infected is a grinning appearance. This is also referred to as a sardonic or rictus grin.

How to treat Tetanus:

Though tetanus can be fatal if you are unlucky enough to contract it, it is not a very common disease as many of us are vaccinated against it when we are young. This vaccination is usually given to children as part of the 6 in 1 vaccine at the ages of two, four and six months. They will then receive a booster dose when they are around four and five years of age for their 4 in 1 vaccine and again when they are around twelve and thirteen years of age as part of their dTap vaccine. The tetanus vaccine is usually 100% successful.

However, if you have for one reason or another not been vaccinated against tetanus, and you do become infected you can receive a treatment of antibiotics to kill the bacteria Clostridia. If the infected patient has severe muscle spasms, they may need anti-seizure medication to stop these convulsions and spasms. As the muscles in the jaw become tight due to spasms a liquid diet may need to be administered as clenched jaws can make it impossible to ingest solid foods.

Though it is possible to contract Tetanus from a dog, it is not very likely as most of us are vaccinated against the disease when we are young. However, if you are bitten by a dog, the most important thing to do is to immediately find out if the dog has received all of its inoculations as tetanus is not the only disease you have to worry about from a dog bite. Rabies is also contacted through bites and is usually fatal to those who have it. You can also contract MRSA and Pasteurella both of which can have serious effects on the body.


In conclusion, it is crucial to see your primary doctor immediately after you have been bitten by a dog as the quicker you treat tetanus that has been contracted from a dog bite the higher the chance of survival and recovery time is minimized.