I died of cuteness
August 7, 2011 5:32 PM   Subscribe

Rabiesfilter: a cute puppy mouthed me and broke the skin. Do I need to get any shots?

So I met the most adorable little pitbull puppies in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. There were three, all leashed up by a playground. They looked healthy and well cared for, and their owner was nearby. One mouthed my arm with his little puppy teeth and tore off a scab. I bled a tiny bit.

I didn't think to ask about their shots.

Do I need to seek any urgent medical treatment?

I know you're not my doctor. To the extent possible, I release you from any and all claims arising out of any advice or remarks you make or fail to make in this thread. Thanks.
posted by grobstein to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My veterinarian-in-training daughter says unfortunately it is possible that the puppy could have rabies, and that they don't show symptoms in early stages. Is there any way you could find the owner and ask if it was vaccinated?

If you can't she said that you should most definitely get treated for rabies; a 4-6 week treatment of weekly shots in the upper arm.
posted by kinetic at 5:44 PM on August 7, 2011

I am not a doctor, nor am I a vet. However, when I've been in similar situations, I've just washed the area well and called it a day. I have yet to start frothing at the mouth. Your risk tolerance may vary.
posted by crankylex at 6:19 PM on August 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Very, very few domesticated animals have rabies. You have a low risk.

Rabies data for NY state
posted by momus_window at 6:25 PM on August 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

From my infectious diseases classes my opinion would be that your risk of rabies infection from a dog in the United States* is rather low, just because vaccination rates are so high. I have also had my skin broken by dogs on a couple occasions, the thought of rabies has never crossed my mind but thinking back they were all dogs I knew to be vaccinated anyway.

*Worldwide, dogs are the number one vector for rabies but it is rare in the US. We usually get it from bats and other wild rodents.
posted by magnetsphere at 6:25 PM on August 7, 2011

If they were younger than 16 weeks old, they were likely not vaccinated. However, this does not mean they had rabies! I would contact your local health department, they will be able to tell you what you should do, most have a rabies department, or at least a person who handles rabies issues.
posted by biscotti at 6:53 PM on August 7, 2011

I wouldn't be worried about rabies since it's so so rare in domesticated pets. I'd watch it for signs of infection for ordinary infection. Seek medical care if it looks persistently inflamed for several days.
posted by Pantalaimon at 6:57 PM on August 7, 2011

Make sure you wash it really really well, you can get a pretty nasty infection from a dog's mouth.
posted by ghharr at 7:55 PM on August 7, 2011

I'll speak to the hypochondriacs: this would be a horrible way to die. If you miss the treatment window for rabies (which is ASAFP) and you've contracted it, you WILL die. Only a handful of people EVER have been documented to survive rabies.

Just saying...
posted by Patbon at 8:24 PM on August 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

This outlines the abov well: rabies
posted by Patbon at 8:27 PM on August 7, 2011

My answer might be full of extraneous info.

The bad:

-Rabies is transmitted by saliva to mucous membranes or broken skin. Even a scratch on the skin is enough for the virus to get in. You can also be infected by saliva getting into your own mouth.

-To prevent rabies after exposure, you have to be treated before the virus reaches the nervous system. Once it reaches the nervous system it can't currently be stopped from traveling to the brain. So, you are supposed to be treated as soon as you possibly can be, ideally within 24 hours.

-It takes a while after exposure for symptoms to appear. In humans it's anywhere from a few weeks to a few years, and is thought to depend in part on how far the bite was away from the brain, e.g., on the foot vs. on the face.

-If the animal was already exposed before receiving the vaccine, the vaccine might not have been given in time to make a difference. So, you could have an animal that appears healthy, has been vaccinated, then weeks or months later starts showing symptoms.

The good:

-The virus is only transmitted in saliva *after* reaching the brain, because it goes from the brain to the salivary glands. So, there's a short window of contagiousness, because--

-The conventional wisdom is that in dogs, the period of time from the beginning of symptoms until death is 10 days. So, if you go back to the doggie park in 10 days and the puppies look fine you can breathe easy.

-In the past few years, science has seen the first unvaccinated survivors who live past the point of displaying symptoms, and recover. However, the treatment has a 20% success rate and involves being placed into a coma.

All in all, I'd probably swing by the doctor's and get the shot, but that's just me.
posted by Ashley801 at 1:17 AM on August 8, 2011

Agreed on talking to the local health department--basically, though, unless there's been a rash of dogs with rabies in the neighborhood, or you run into the owner later and he tells you the dogs were rabid, there's an incredibly low likelihood of getting rabies from that.

(When I was about 13, I fed and was slobbered on by a pony that developed rabies shortly after, and needed to get the vaccine. It's not a "swing by the doctor's and get a shot" situation, but neither is it a "shots in the stomach" situation. You get a couple in the butt and a few in the arm over the course of about a month. The incubation period is also such that, even if you do want to be extra-cautious, you don't need to go to the doctor's today.)
posted by tchemgrrl at 5:57 AM on August 8, 2011

Best answer: You should make sure you are up to date on your tetanus shots.
posted by Pax at 9:49 AM on August 8, 2011

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