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Animal Bite, Ambulatory Care

Animal bite

injuries range from shallow cuts to deep, life-threatening wounds. Animal bites occur more often on the hands, arms, legs, and face. Bites from dogs and cats are the most common injuries.

Common symptoms include the following:

  • Cut or punctured skin
  • Skin torn from your body
  • Swollen or bruised skin, even if the skin is not broken

Seek immediate care for the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Red and swollen wound that is draining pus
  • Red streaks on the skin around the wound
  • Not being able to move the bitten area
  • Heartbeat and breathing that are much faster than usual
  • Feeling dizzy and confused

Treatment for an animal bite

may include any of the following:

  • Irrigation and debridement may be needed to clean out your wound. Dead, damaged, or infected tissue may be cut away to help your wound heal.
  • Medicines:
    • Antibiotics prevent or treat a bacterial infection.
    • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask how to take this medicine safely.
    • A tetanus vaccine may be needed to prevent tetanus. A bite wound can cause tetanus. Tetanus is a life-threatening infection that affects the nerves and muscles.
    • A rabies vaccine may be needed to prevent rabies. Rabies is a life-threatening infection that is caused by animal bites.
  • Stitches may be needed if your wound is large and not infected.
  • Surgery may be needed to repair deep injuries or severe wounds.

Manage your symptoms:

  • Apply antibiotic ointment as directed. This helps prevent infection in minor skin wounds. Antibiotic ointment is available without a prescription.
  • Keep the wound clean and covered. Wash the wound every day with soap and water or germ-killing cleanser. Ask what kinds of bandages to use.

  • Apply ice as directed. Apply ice on your wound for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
  • Elevate your wound. Raise your wound above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your wound on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably.

Prevent another animal bite:

  • Learn to recognize the signs of a scared pet. Avoid quick, sudden movements.
  • Do not step between animals that are fighting.
  • Do not leave a pet alone with a young child.
  • Do not disturb an animal while it eats, sleeps, or cares for its young.
  • Do not approach an animal you do not know, especially one that is tied up or caged.
  • Stay away from animals that seem sick or act strangely.
  • Do not feed or capture wild animals.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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