Dog Bite Nerve Damage Symptoms
The vast majority of people who have suffered from dog bites have not pursued any legal action against the owner because they don't understand the laws regarding these cases and don't realize that compensation is available for their injuries.
Did you suffer nerve damage from a dog bite? At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, our personal injury attorneys are legal advocates for adults and children injured or killed through another's negligence.
Call a Chicago dog bite lawyer at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact form today to schedule a free legal consultation. All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team remains private through an attorney-client relationship.
While dog bite injuries can be mild, they often result in severe damage to the victim's skin tissue and underlying muscle or bone structure. In addition, a dog bite injury is often caused by an unprovoked attack from a dog who has not been trained to interact appropriately with humans or other animals.
Dog bite victims injured in an animal attack should contact an experienced personal injury attorney immediately. Their attorney will protect their rights under the law while Recovering from their physical wounds and emotional trauma.
Dog Bite Nerve Damage
Dog attacks are a serious public health issue. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs every year, with approximately 800,000 of these victims seeking medical attention.
Statistically, children are at the greatest risk of suffering from a dog attack and disruptive nerve function. Approximately half of all young dog bite victims treated in hospital emergency rooms were age five or younger.
Young children tend to have high levels of emotional distress during and after the recovery process when undergoing surgical intervention to improve sensory function. Many times, full recovery is not possible.
According to the CDC, children are more likely than adults to receive extensive wounds resulting in hospitalization and plastic surgery. In addition, children under five years old are more likely than older children to require hospitalization for their injuries.
The most common types of animal bites involve puncture wounds, lacerations, and crushing injuries. A dog bite can cause extensive tissue damage to muscles, tendons, bones, and nerves. A dog bite victim can suffer permanent nerve damage as a result of a dog attack.
Types of Nerve Damage Dog Bites Cause
The dog's teeth puncture the victim's skin and damage underlying muscle, tendons, bones, blood vessels, or nerves. The most common types of nerve damage from a dog bite are compression injuries to the radial nerve.
This injury can lead to symptoms such as:
- Tingling in one or both hands
- Numbness in the hands and fingers
- Burning sensation in the hands and fingers
- Pain in one or both arms
- Loss of strength in the hands and fingers
- Lack of coordination in the hands and fingers
Another type of nerve damage that can result from a dog attack is sciatica. This condition develops when the sciatic nerve - which runs from the lower back down the legs - is injured. Symptoms of this type of nerve damage include tingling, numbness, or pain in one or both legs and feet.
Doctors can diagnose dog bites by reviewing X-rays, examining the victim's medical history, taking blood tests, and conducting a physical examination to identify evidence of nerve damage. The significance of the nerve damage is then determined by how close to an important nerve or blood vessel the damaged tissue is located.
Treatment for Nerve Damage From Dog Bites
The most effective way to treat dog bite injuries is through emergency medical treatment immediately after the injury occurs. Unfortunately, it can take several months before dog bite victims with severe physical disabilities recover enough muscle strength to use their affected hands and fingers.
To treat nerve damage, the doctor initially administers antibiotics to prevent infection. Other treatments may include steroids to reduce inflammation.
Surgery is often required to clean out the area around the injury and debride (remove) damaged tissue. In addition, some dogs are trained in physical therapy that can help people recover from dog bites.
Many dog bite cases involve muscle atrophy caused by the crushing force of a dog bite. The most severe form of bite force often involves anatomic disruption and permanent damage to motor nerves.
The most severe form of muscle loss occurs when the bite force is high enough to rupture muscles. This form of injury usually involves severe wounds that cause extensive damage to large areas of tissue, including deep muscle and supporting soft tissues, nerves, blood vessels, and bones.
Neurapraxia is the least severe type of nerve damage. It occurs when the axon (the nerve that transmits messages) is stretched but not torn. If an axon is stretched or pulled, it may become irritated or pinched.
If the compression on the nerve is only temporary, then recovery usually occurs over time without treatment. The patient may recover completely, or they may have some permanent loss of sensation. If the compression on the nerve is prolonged, then recovery usually occurs over some time with treatment.
The current theory suggests two different types of neurapraxia: "lengthwise" and "traction."
- Lengthwise neurapraxia: Occurs when the axon is stretched but not torn. This type of neurapraxia typically occurs in the setting of a sudden, powerful muscle contraction or stretch - which can occur after any violent muscle contraction or stretch during an accident/incident.
- Traction neurapraxia: Occurs when the axon is mechanically pulled apart but not torn. This type of neurapraxia typically occurs in the setting of a sudden, powerful muscle contraction or stretch - which can occur after any violent muscle contraction or stretch during an accident/incident.
Axonotmesis is the most severe type of nerve damage. It occurs when the axon is torn apart from the cell body. The resulting injury can cause permanent loss of sensation or movement, depending on where the damage occurred.
Nerve Regeneration After Injury
The axons can regenerate, but they cannot extend across an area of scar tissue that separates the damaged and undamaged parts of the nerve.
As a result, axonotmesis injuries do not heal spontaneously, and patients with this type of injury usually must see a doctor for treatment. Regenerating damaged nerves may take several weeks or months after surgery. In most cases, recovery from axonotmesis injuries is slow and incomplete.
Neurotmesis is the most severe nerve damage, typically involving anatomic disruption of the connective tissue and the axon. It occurs when the axon and part or all the myelin sheath protecting cells are torn apart from the cell body.
The resulting injury can cause permanent loss of sensation or movement, depending on where the damage occurred. Neurotmesis injuries do not heal spontaneously, and patients with this type of injury usually must see a doctor for treatment. In most cases, recovery from neurotmesis injuries is slow and incomplete.
Most nerve damage from dog bites occurs in the hand, wrist, forearm, or shoulder. The patterns of injury are related to the way a dog holds and bites its victim. Many times, a dog grabs a person's arm or shoulder before biting down. Therefore, injuries often occur in the upper extremities because the nerves are closer to the outside of the body.
In some cases, the dog bite victim is left with numbness, intense pain, weakness, or partial or total paralysis of the affected area.
Rehabilitation for Nerve Damage From Dog Bites
Physical and occupational therapy may help improve hand function, restoring some independence to dog bite victims with nerve damage. Unfortunately, not all patients regain full use of the affected arm or leg after recovering from nerve damage.
The time it takes to recover after a dog bite depends on the location of the injury and how severe it is. Recovery may take several months or years, especially if there is extensive nerve damage.
It is difficult to predict exactly how much function will return because every patient's case is different. However, treatment should be started as soon as possible following an injury because the longer a person waits, the more nerve damage occurs.
Early treatment is key in limiting long-term disability from animal bites and other injuries. Typically, nerve regeneration is not available during the healing process without surgical intervention.
Surgical Treatment for Dog Bite Nerve Damage
If a dog bite victim sustains nerve damage, surgical treatment typically is performed to shorten or lengthen tendons that have become trapped around the injury site. This approach helps relieve pressure on the affected nerves and allows them to start functioning normally.
For example, if a dog bite injures the ring (fourth) finger, surgeons can release the index finger tendon to make more room for the damaged fourth finger nerve. Another common example occurs when a dog bites a victim's wrist, causing the index and thumb muscles to become trapped around the radius bone. In this case, surgeons can lengthen these tendons to release them from around the radius bone.
Doctors use x-rays and electromyography (EMG) to determine how severely the nerves are damaged. The site where the nerve is injured also influences how successful surgery will be in restoring function.
An EMG test can identify problems through a nerve conduction study measuring the nurse conducting function. Any affected sensory nerves could cause persistent pain, prickling sensations, tingling, and numbness in the area.
If a dog bites you, get medical treatment immediately. Even if your injury doesn't seem serious at first, seek help right away because nerve damage can occur rapidly and may be more severe than it initially appears.
If amputation is necessary, the best time to perform it is within a week of the injury. Once scar tissue forms, it interferes with nerve regeneration and may complicate surgery.
How Long It Takes to Recover From a Dog Bite
The length of time the healing process takes depends on the severity of your injuries and how old you were when you were attacked, but recovery generally takes around six weeks on average. However, some people may not fully recover for several months or longer if an older injury is made more complex by the bite.
If partial or no interruption of blood flow to an extremity occurs, the recovery time can be longer and more severe. For example, if the dog's teeth punctured the main artery and vein, surgery would likely be necessary to reconnect them.
Long-Term Treatment for Animal Bite Nerve Damage
Nerves need time to heal, so it is important not to rush back into things too soon. Depending on the severity of your nerve damage, you may be on crutches or wearing an elbow brace for at least three months after the injury.
It can take up to a year for full sensation to return and the function of the affected area to improve. It may be longer in cases where amputation was necessary. If sensation doesn't return in the remaining part of an amputated limb or digit, there is a greater risk for chronic pain and phantom limb discomfort.
People who have to undergo multiple surgeries may need more time to recover. Therefore, you must follow your doctor's advice and do everything they say because it could save you from further complications down the road.
Children recover somewhat faster than adults because young bones are flexible, and children's bodies can tolerate trauma better than adults. However, even in children, the last surgery to seal the site must be performed within a week of the initial injury, or scar tissue will form that inhibits nerve regeneration.
Know that it is normal for you to experience some discomfort during your recovery. In most cases, it is a result of the ligaments and muscles that stretched or torn from being over-extended by the force of the dog's jaw, but you could also feel one or more of these:
- A burning sensation in the area where you were bitten
- A prickling/pins-and-needles feeling
- A tingling sensation
The discomfort can last for weeks or even months, but it should gradually fade as your body recovers. However, if you experience any of the unbearable symptoms listed above, have them checked out by a doctor because they could be signs of infection.
If you suspect something is wrong, do not delay seeing your doctor!
Once the numbness goes away, you may experience some residual stiffness and pain. It might be a result of scar tissue that forms as the muscles and ligaments heal. If this occurs, then doing gentle range-of-motion exercises for several months can help regain flexibility and break up the scar tissue.
If you need to wear a splint, sling, or brace for several weeks, then use the time to learn some new adaptive skills that will help you do daily tasks more easily.
Nerve Damage from Dog Bites FAQs
Our personal injury law firm understands that many families have unanswered questions about dealing with dog bite claims directly with an insurance company. Call our law office at (888) 424-5757 for additional information if you have questions.
Personal injury lawyers have answered some of the most pertinent questions below.
How Do You Treat Nerve Damage From a Dog Bite?
The treatment will depend on the location of the injury, how severe it is, and what damage is present. Treatment usually includes physical and occupational therapy to help restore function in the area injured by a dog bite.
Nerve damage can be very serious because not only does it cause numbness in the affected area, but it can also cause your hand and arm muscles to become weak.
What Steps Should You Take If a Dog Attacked You?
If the animal is still around, make sure someone else controls the dog so it doesn't attack again. Bystanders are typically able to subdue an animal until police or animal control agents arrive.
If the dog has run off, call 911 so an officer can attempt to find it and make sure it is safe if you cannot get back into your house or car.
Be honest about what happened so the animal can be identified if it bites someone else in the future. Additionally, determine which emergency room you will contact law enforcement and the animal control agency once you arrive.
How Is a Dog Bite Case Different Than Other Personal Injury Cases?
You do not have to prove the dog owner was negligent to recover damages for your injuries, but it will be necessary to show that the dog was prone to aggressive behavior before.
Dog owners are required to have their canine restrained, so it cannot attack people. However, suppose the dog is not leashed or fenced. In that case, there may still be a liability if it is determined that the owner's property was being used as a doggy daycare center, boarding facility, a sanctuary for abused animals, or by someone who wanted to breed dogs on site.
What Are Common Treatments for Dog Bite Sensory Nerve Damage?
A doctor may prescribe medication that can help minimize pain, swelling, and inflammation. However, the most important part of treatment is ensuring the patient gets the necessary physical therapy to recover normal function in the hand or arm.
How Long Does It Take for a Dog Bite Case Settlement to Go Through?
It varies depending on your case's particular facts and circumstances, but generally speaking, it can take anywhere from 2 to 8 months for a personal injury settlement. Again, an experienced dog bite attorney will be able to give you an idea as to how long it may take in your case.
Why Is My Leg Numb After a Dog Bite?
The symptoms you are experiencing could signify a serious injury to the nerves that control your leg muscles. It might include motor nerve damage to repair motor function lost during a dog bite or other related causes.
Suppose a dog bit you in the legs. In that case, it is important to seek medical attention immediately because this type of injury can lead to permanent paralysis if not properly diagnosed and treated.
Hiring an Animal Attack Attorney to Resolve a Compensation Case
Did you suffer nerve injury in a dog bite attack requiring physical therapy, surgery, or other procedure to stimulate nerve regeneration? Contact a dog bite attorney today at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC at (888) 424-5757 to schedule a free consultation.
Our personal injury law firm accepts all dog bite claims and wrongful death lawsuits through contingency fee agreements. This promise ensures you pay nothing until we resolve your dog bite attack case through a negotiated settlement or jury trial award.