Is Swelling Normal After a Dog Bite?

Dogs, just like any other mammals, have teeth that can inflict mild or severe damage. Most reasons for a dog bite are a result of a scare or for protection. 

Others are likely due to inadequate training or sickness. Whatever the case is, dog bites are not a pleasant experience. I have personally been bitten by a stray dog that was sick. 

The wound seemed subtle unto the following day. Merely 24 hours after the bite, I had severe swelling and developed a severe cellulitis infection and a near sepsis event

Fortunately, antibiotics cleared it right up. Most dog bites do not get infected, though. To better understand why swelling occurs after a dog bite, we’re covering three reasons. 

Moreover, we are also featuring tips to consider if you ever get bitten by a dog. We still love them, though; it’s challenging to stay angry at adorable pooches, am I right?


Reasons Why A Dog Bite Swells

The Affected Area is Bruised

Most dog bites do not pierce the skin but alternatively employ tremendous amounts of pressure. This pressure can damage the muscle beneath the skin’s surface, resulting in a bruise. 

Luckily, these kinds of injuries are short-lived and require no medical attention in most cases. The bruises may feel sore to the touch for a few days, with any discoloration lasting for weeks. 

It’s important to remember that warmth that lasts for more than a few hours after the bite should be a cause for concern. 

The dog’s teeth can penetrate the skin even without you even knowing, leaving behind bacteria that can cause infection

If you are sure that there is no breakage of the skin, apply a chilled towel or ice pack to the afflicted area for prompt alleviation of any pain.

The Wound is Inflamed

Even if the bite is not infected, our bodies naturally release several inflammatory hormones to initiate the inflammation process. 

Inflammation is often thought to be a bad thing, but in many cases, it has a job to do; healing injuries. 

If the bite is inflamed, it may not be infected, but it’s still not worth the risk of the contrary; see a doctor promptly. 

To ease inflammation, apply a cold press, and if safe, take a dose of NSAIDs, which will reduce the inflammation of the affected area. 

Keep in mind; any dog bite should not be inflamed for more than 12 hours if it’s not infected. 

While we recommend going to the doctor sooner than 12 hours, if the bite is still inflamed after this time, it’s likely infected and requires medical area attention. 

The Bite is Infected

Dog infections can result in severe, life-threatening infections, such as cellulitis, sepsis, or worse, no matter the bite’s severity. 

If it’s broken through the skin, be very conscious of the condition of the bite. Dog bites can rapidly evolve into dangerous infections if not treated immediately. 

When a dog bites you, its teeth leave behind an enormous amount of bacteria. If your dog has exceptional dental hygiene, you may luck out, but don’t count on it. 

You should always consider visiting a doctor soon following a dog bite, just to be cautious. The tell-tell signs of infection are warmth, inflammation, or pain. 

Infections caused by dog bites cannot be treated at home and require medical attention to be treated. Luckily, most dog bites that become infected resolve with a short course of antibiotics.

Why Dogs Bite You

It’s Frightened 

In my case of being bitten, the dog became frightened when I attempted to control the situation near a loud, highly trafficked highway. 

Dogs, like humans, can become fearful, especially when confronted in unfamiliar places. If they’re lost, in a loud area, or hurt, they may be scared, resulting in a snap or bite. 

Fear may also occur if the dog is confronted quickly by a stranger or simply cornered, and while training can solve this, can you really blame the dog? No.

Poorly Trained

Dogs that are not appropriately trained can also pose a risk of biting someone. Throughout time, humans have made strides at training dogs well enough to make positive emotions an instinct.

Despite this, they’re still dogs, and while they’re cute and cuddly, they need training. Anyone can train their dog basic commands at home.

However, some dogs are better trained by professionals, such as large dog breeds like the Caucasian Shepherd or Rottweiler. 

It’s Feeling Unwell 

Another reason why a dog may bite you is that it’s sick. Diseases such as rabies, infections, pain, or minor viruses can make a dog feel incredibly rough and “ill.”

Often, dogs bite out of instinct and instantly regret it and apologize by attempting to cuddle or sympathize.  

In some cases, you may touch an area in severe pain and give the dog no choice but to let his instincts take over: a disturbing but plausible explanation for a dog bite.

Helpful Advice 

Insurance and Dog Bites

Dog bites are often very easy to treat unless it’s a powerful attack, leaving massive wounds. 

A dog bite that penetrates the skin and requires a few stitches and a course of antibiotics is easily covered by most insurance providers.

However, it’s difficult to say if the bite will be covered by insurance as each provider is very different. The most likely answer? Yes.

Reporting The Incident


The victim most often reports a dog bite instead of the owner. If a dog has attacked you, you can file a police report or make a claim with your insurance company.

If you are the owner, then you may need to report the incident to your insurance company, even if the victim does not report it to the police or make a claim. 

In some cases, insurance companies may void the entire agreement and remove your coverage. While it may be scary to report the incident, it’s the right thing to do.

Plot Twist: Your Dog Bit Someone (Or Yourself!)

If your dog has bitten someone, we get that you likely don’t want to report the incident. Despite that, it must be done, especially if the bite-inflicted injury cannot be treated at home.

Dog bites that get infected may give the victim a good enough reason to file a lawsuit for payment to cover any injury expenses, at the least.

Some dogs are put into quarantine for a period of 24, 36, or 48 hours and beyond, or none at all, depending on the severity. Your next step should be training; click here for more information.


A dog bite is a terrifying experience. It doesn’t make it any better that dog bites have the potential to lead to serious health consequences. 

If a dog has bitten you or someone you know, it’s best to visit a doctor now vs. later before things get worse. 

As mentioned previously, dog bites can cause severe infection, which can peak in as little as 24 hours and result in much bigger obstacles. 
According to the CDC, just 18% of dog bites become infected. Despite this, you should never wait it out; if a dog has bitten you, go to the doctor as soon as possible.

Written by Brian Rucker

Brian Rucker has been a dog lover since childhood. He has had his Lab Mix with Hound for over 10+ years now! They enjoy playing outdoors together. Brian loves sharing his knowledge about all things dog on this website. Read more of Brian's articles.