The Curious Incident of the Dog that F*cking Bit My Husband on the Leg

My poor darling. 2011 has only just started, and already his left leg has taken several, totally unrelated beatings. On Sunday the 2nd, Marty went for a leisurely bike ride through the forested grounds of a local university. The paths were fairly narrow– not wide enough to pass somebody in front of you– so Marty ended up being stuck on his bike behind some guy who was walking his two dogs for a fair bit of time. When the paths finally widened, Marty, bless his due diligence and respectful cycling protocol, slowly passed to the left of the man and his dogs, being careful not to startle the dogs (or the man, of course.) Unfortunately, one of the dogs was highly excitable and/or conveniently bred to be aggressive, and he ended up biting Marty on his lower leg (for no good reason, dog!!) as he passed by.

Um, yeah. The dog was a pit bull and the owner of the dog sounded like a total jerk– enough of a jerk to actually deny that his dog had bitten Marty at all. Even though proof of the bite was on Marty’s leg, plain as day. (And I, sir, deny that the sky is blue. So there!) Marty debated following the man on his bike to get a license plate number or some other information about the owner, but was worried about being bitten by the pit bull again and decided to just ride home instead.

Marty’s first thoughts about the incident were essentially that the guy “was a total douche bag”. My first thoughts about the incident were “um, rabies?”

Rabies is one of those things that I’m kinda-sorta-familiar with, meaning (in essence) that I have heard the word ‘rabies’ before and have even used the terms ‘rabid’ and/or ‘foaming at the mouth’ in colloquial conversations before. Unfortunately, I don’t know a whole lot about the particulars of rabies. For example, although I know that being bitten by a strange dog (or bat!) can put a person at risk for rabies, I shamefully don’t know if rabies is more of an ‘other country’ issue and less prevalent in ‘developed’ nations such as Canada. Isn’t the incidence of rabies in Canada supposed to be very low, especially because domestic pet owners are supposed to keep all of their animal shots up to date? Coulda, shoulda, woulda, um… maybe? Also, how would a person be able to know if they were being bitten by a rabid dog as opposed to an aggressive but uninfected animal? Is there a reliable way to distinguish between a strange pit bull with rabies and one without rabies? Finally, what exactly constitutes ‘broken skin’? Does a person have to drip blood out of a wound, or do there have to be flaps of skin waving about? Marty’s bite kind of looks like I tried to bite him on the leg. And failed miserably. It’s smaller (i.e. compared to the actual size of pit bull jaws), and while it does look reddish, it isn’t oozing any fluids or anything. Would a nip from a strange pit bull be a cause for concern?

What I do happen to know about rabies is that the virus, if contracted and left untreated, is almost always fatal. Animals (and people!) die a most horrible death if they don’t seek appropriate medical attention for a bite. So when Marty came home with a story about a pit bull and a bite on his beautiful leg, I became gravely concerned for his well being.

Of course, it was Sunday evening on a long weekend, and Marty couldn’t be coaxed into going to the emergency room for any reason whatsoever. (We did some google searches instead– an ever-reliable source of medical information, right?– and most of them basically said phone your doctor as soon as possible and definitely do something about it within 10 days.) Marty decided he would wait to see our awesome doctor rather than spend a possible 10 hours in the hospital emergency room. (Our doctor, in contrast to every other physician I’ve ever encountered, wouldn’t push any unnecessary pharmaceutical treatments onto Marty, but if his situation warranted a post-exposure vaccination, he would definitely be up front about that.) Of course, the doctor’s office was closed Sunday as well as yesterday (Monday) because of the New Year’s Day stat holiday, so I was left panicking while Marty continued to rationalize not needing medical attention. (Men!)

We phoned the B.C. Health Link service yesterday to help assuage my fears about OMG RABIES!!!! The Health Link website actually has an interactive feature that asks about your symptoms and rates your health risks based on the answers provided. We went through the questions and answered them as honestly as we could. Some of the questions were a little vague, like ‘Are you concerned about rabies?’ I wanted to pick OF COURSE I AM CONCERNED ABOUT RABIES, BUT I AM WONDERING IF I HAVE JUST CAUSE TO BE SO WORRIED!, but that wasn’t one of the multiple choice answers. (Who else would take an online Animal Bite Self-Assessment Questionnaire, except for a person who was perhaps concerned about rabies? It’s not exactly a Cosmo magazine-type of quiz you take for fun.) For the most part, though, everything in the questionnaire was pretty straightforward. So imagine my panic when we completed the questionnaire and were given these results:

Seek care within the hour?! Possibly call an ambulance?!!

Being a totally rational human being, I went back and took the quiz again, this time adjusting the answers to favour the ‘nothing to worry about’ side of things. No broken skin, no signs of infection, no shock, no major pain, etc. The results still came back the same. Seek help within the hour!

The best result I could obtain from this online self-assessment tool (after carefully changing the answers about five different times, thus totally defeating the purpose of the questionnaire) was a yellow light: Seek Help Today. Thanks for the reassurance, Health Link, especially since Marty was bitten on Sunday and this was already Monday. And our doctor wouldn’t be in until Tuesday. And our appointment can’t be scheduled until Wednesday. Perfect. Totally effin’ perfect. Naturally, I panicked. By this time, too, Marty had resigned himself to the need for medical attention but still voiced a strong preference to see our family doctor instead of some random ER physician. Wednesday it will be.

(To be fair, I tend to be a bit on the overdramatic side for most things in life, and Marty– ever cool and collected– usually ends up being right. However, death and dying aren’t normally at stake when we decide whether or not to be over the top with our reactions, so I’m inclined to be uber-cautious about this whole situation rather than be blasé. He’s my husband! He needs to see a doctor! I. AM. RIGHT.)

As I mentioned, Marty has an appointment first thing tomorrow (Wednesday) morning. We will be seeing our honest and ultra-amazing family doctor. Please cross your fingers for all of the following:

1. Rabies cases are practically unheard of in Victoria, B.C., because pet owners everywhere are so diligent in keeping their animals vaccinated.

2. The bite that Marty received on his leg did not ‘break the skin’.

3. The dog that bit Marty wasn’t infected with rabies to begin with.

4. There is no need to be concerned or alarmed. Even if a post-exposure vaccination gets administered, it would just be given to be on the safe side and not because Marty’s life is in any way threatened.

5. (wishful thinking) If Marty does need to receive the rabies vaccine, it will be covered by B.C. Medical because of the circumstances. The travel clinic offers the rabies vaccination for a mere $200, but maybe because Marty was actually bitten by a wild beast, we won’t have to pay that much (or anything at all).

6. Don’t even get me started with anything related to tetanus. I don’t want to hear about it.

Say it with me now, folks: RABIES SUCKS! 😦

9 responses

    • I know. I love dogs but feel disappointed when they are bred/raised to fit the stereotypes. Just once, I’d love to meet a super gentle pit bull with a non-douche owner! 🙂

  1. You know what? Some people just shouldn’t be allowed to own dogs. Especially dogs who are known to be aggressive. What a horrible experience!!!
    I’m sure everything will be fine (as I’m sure you know now). But keep us posted.

  2. 1. I hope he’s ok. Rabid Beast Infection is not the way to start a new year.
    2. I totally appreciate the answer-tweaking on the Rabies Quiz. I did the same thing when I found out I was pregnant, googling “Faux Baby” for days!

    • Yeah, I know all about fudging pregnancy symptoms to make them seem non-pregnancy related. When I was pregnant for a brief stint in 2006 (before I miscarried at 11 weeks), I tried to convince myself that my pregnancy was actually: jet lag, bad gas, serious hormonal disruptions and/or vitamin deficiency, emotional distress, a lesser known symptom of Czech wafer consumption, my humble beginnings as a bionic-nosed superwoman, an elaborate figment of my overly developed imagination, etc., etc. Turns out I was actually pregnant. Huh.

  3. my guess is that your family doctor is going to tell marty to get the prophylactic vaccines. as you already know, rabies is pretty much 100% fatal and its a pretty ugly way to go. Very few people are willing to take a chance on those odds, even if the probability of transmission is low, especially when there’s a way to prevent it that’s available.

    That being said, my parents were exposed to bats in their sleep (in the U.S., bats are the primary carrier of rabies) and based on all medical literature – should’ve received the rabies vaccine immediately. Both of them declined – my dad because it’s a series of shots and you have to go back weekly and he hates that kind of hassle, my mom because she says they grew up with bats in Taiwan and never had an issue. I wanted to scream at them BUT THIS IS THE U.S> AMERICAN BATS HAVE RABIES!!!! I even looked up symptoms of oncoming rabies infection so i could prepare myself (i do not recommend this).

    My parents are both still alive and kicking. 🙂

    Keep us updated!

  4. Too bad you guys didn’t identify the owner/car plate to report his dog. He may have bitten before and may bite again. I am in really in favour of what other places have done. banning breeds and/or requiring muzzles. How many toddler attacks does it take before communities wake up? The owners almost always have an agenda comparable to carrying a gun around.
    Rabies is really rare, but far more likely to occur among racoons and skunks than domestic dogs.

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