Animal Bites Treatment
- What It Is
- Risk Factors
- Living With
- User Questions
- Alternative Treatment
- Care Guide
- Questions for Your Doctor
- When to Contact a Doctor
- Find a Doctor
- Resource Guide
How to Treat Animal Bites
Treatment aims to promote healing, decrease the risk of infection, and prevent complications. If your dog bit you and it has had all its vaccinations, you may be able to treat a minor wound yourself. However, call your provider for medical advice. Receiving any necessary medical care within the first 24 hours decreases the chance of infection.
Seek medical care in these situations:
- Bite from any wild animal (Bites from rabbits and rodents (squirrels, mice, rats) are quite unlikely to cause rabies.)
- Cat or human bites (These are particularly prone to developing rapid and serious infection.)
- Deep or large wound
- Five or more years since your last tetanus shot
Regardless of the severity of the bite, see a doctor if you have a chronic medical condition, such as:
- Liver disease
- Heart or lung disease
- Arthritis or Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
- Poor circulation
- Immune system deficiency
- Wash the wound with soap and water for at least five minutes.
- Apply pressure with a clean towel to stop the bleeding.
- If bleeding does not stop within 15 minutes, seek immediate medical care.
- Place a sterile bandage on the open area.
- Elevate the wound, keeping the area above the level of your heart to decrease swelling.
- Keep the bandage clean and dry.
- Check the wound regularly for signs of infection.
A healthcare provider can clean the wound, washing the tissue with large amounts of fluid. Debris and dead tissue can be removed. The wound may or may not be closed with stitches. It often is kept open to decrease the risk of infection. After 24 hours, the doctor may use adhesive strips to bring the edges of the wound closer together. Antibiotics may be ordered and a tetanus shot may be given.
If the identity of the biting animal is unknown and it cannot be monitored for rabies, you may need to receive treatment to prevent this life-threatening disease. For hand wounds, a splint may be ordered to keep the hand from moving. Expect to follow up with the doctor in one or two days.
If you have recieved an animal bite, follow your doctor's instructions.