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Animal Bite


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 care immediately if:

  • You have a fever.
  • Your wound is red, swollen, and draining pus.
  • You see red streaks on the skin around the wound.
  • You can no longer move the bitten area.
  • Your heartbeat and breathing are much faster than usual.
  • You feel dizzy and confused.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • Your pain does not get better, even after you take pain medicine.
  • You have nightmares or flashbacks about the animal bite.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

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. Tetanus is a life-threatening bacterial infection that affects the nerves and muscles. The bacteria can be spread through animal bites.
    • A rabies vaccine may be needed to prevent rabies. Rabies is a life-threatening viral infection. The virus can be spread through 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 to your wound. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel. Apply ice on your wound for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed.
  • 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.

Ā© Copyright IBM Corporation 2021 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 CareNotesĀ® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

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.

Learn more about Animal Bite (Ambulatory Care)

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.