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Animal Bite


  • An animal bite is any wound that you get from coming into contact with an animal's teeth. Animal bites may be caused by pets or animals in the wild, zoo, or farm. The bite may or may not be on purpose. A bite wound may be an abrasion (scrape), puncture (hole), or laceration (tear). Powerful or deep bites may cause injury to bones, muscles, and other body parts. It may sometimes lead to severe loss of blood and tissues. You may have a cut, bruise, swelling, bleeding, pain, or trouble moving the injured area. If infected, the wound may have pus or the area around it may become red and tender, or feel warm when touched.
  • Caregivers will check your bite wound, including the injured skin and area around it. Caregivers will ask you about the animal and how it bit you to learn if it may have rabies. If so, the animal may need to be caught or watched for illness. He will look for other problems or signs of infection. Blood tests, wound culture, x-rays, ultrasound, and angiography may be done to check for other problems or injuries. Treatment will depend on how severe the wound is, its location, and whether other areas are injured. It may include cleaning the wound by flushing it and removing objects, dirt, or dead tissue. With treatment and care, an animal bite may be cured and serious problems may be prevented.


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.


  • Treatment for an animal bite may bring unwanted effects. Medicines may cause nausea (upset stomach) or vomiting (throwing up). You may develop soreness, redness, or swelling of the muscle where a tetanus or rabies shot was given. You may get an allergy with your medicines and have itching, swelling and redness of your skin.
  • Untreated animal bites may lead to more serious problems, such as swelling and infections. Severe swelling may cause blood supply problems and cause tissue injury. Infection may spread to other parts of your body and may become life-threatening. People who have diabetes, blood supply problems, or have decreased ability to fight infection are at a higher risk of problems. If you were bitten by a rabid animal and not treated, you could get rabies and die. The chances of successfully treating an animal bite are better when treated as soon as possible after the bite happens. Ask your caregiver if you are worried or have questions about your injury, care, or treatment. Ask your caregiver if you need more information about wound infection or rabies.


Informed consent:

A consent form is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.


An IV (intravenous) is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.


You may be given the following medicines:

  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to help treat or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.
  • Anti-venom: Some snakes give off venom (poison) when they bite. Anti-venom may be given to help fight the poison you received. Ask your caregiver for more information on snake bites.
  • Antiviral medicine: Antiviral medicine may be given to fight an infection caused by a germ called a virus.
  • Immune globulins: Immune globulins can be used to treat many different problems. It may be given to help your immune system fight infection. It may also help if your body does not produce enough of certain kinds of blood cells. This medicine may help if your system fights something in your blood or body that it should not. Ask your caregiver for more information about how immune globulin medicine may help you.
  • Medicines to treat pain, swelling, or fever: These medicines are safe for most people to use. However, they can cause serious problems when used by people with certain medical conditions. Tell caregivers if you have liver or kidney disease or a history of bleeding in your stomach.
  • Td vaccine: This vaccine is a booster shot used to help prevent diphtheria and tetanus. The Td booster may be given to adolescents and adults every 10 years or for certain wounds and injuries.


  • Angiography: This test looks for problems with the arteries in a part of the body. A dye is used to help the arteries show up better on the pictures. Pictures may be taken using an x-ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or a computed tomography (CT) scan.
  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give caregivers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.
  • Ultrasound: An ultrasound is a simple test that looks inside of your body. Sound waves are used to show pictures of your organs and tissues on a TV-like screen.
  • Wound culture: This is a method to grow and identify the germs that may be in your wound. This helps caregivers learn what kind of infection you have and what medicine is best to treat it.
  • X-rays: These are pictures of your bones and tissues around your wound. You may need to have an x-ray, especially if the wound is near a joint or bone. Caregivers use the pictures to look for broken bones, other injuries, or foreign objects.

Treatment options:

You may have any of the following:

  • Wound care: Caregivers will first need to control the bleeding.
    • Cleaning: Soap and water is used to wash away germs and decrease the chance of infection. Flushing with sterile (clean) water further cleans the wound. This is done under high pressure, using a needle or catheter (tube) tip and a large syringe. A solution that kills germs may also be used.
    • Debridement: This is a procedure to clean and remove objects, dirt, or dead tissues from the open wound.
    • Drainage: This may be done if the wound is already infected and contains pus. Caregivers may drain the pus using a needle to clean the wound.
    • Closing the wound: You may need stitches (thread), staples, skin adhesive, or other treatments to close the wound. This may be done if the wound is wide or deep. Closing the wound may help decrease the amount of scarring you have. Some wounds may heal better by leaving it open for a while or until it closes on its own.
  • Surgery: You may need surgery to repair injuries such as a broken bone or damaged blood vessel, joint, tendon, or nerve. Surgery to remove, reconnect, or rebuild the body part with the bite wound may also be done.
  • Supportive treatments:
    • Blood transfusion: You will get whole or parts of blood through an IV during a transfusion. Blood is tested for diseases, such as hepatitis and HIV, to be sure it is safe.
    • Oxygen: You may need extra oxygen if your blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. You may get oxygen through a mask placed over your nose and mouth or through small tubes placed in your nostrils. Ask your caregiver before you take off the mask or oxygen tubing.

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 (Inpatient 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.