- Bite or
claw wound from a pet, farm or wild animal
bites usually need to be seen by a physician because all of them are contaminated
with saliva and are prone to wound infection.
- Bites from Rabies-Prone Wild Animals: Rabies is a fatal
disease. Bites or scratches from a bat, skunk, raccoon, opossum, fox,
coyote, or large wild animal are especially dangerous. These animals can transmit
rabies even if they have no symptoms. Bats have transmitted rabies without a
detectable bite mark.
Small Wild Animal Bites: Small animals such as mice, rats, moles,
gophers, chipmunks, and rabbits fortunately are considered free of rabies. Squirrels
may rarely carry rabies, but have not transmitted it to humans.
Large Pet Animal Bites: Most pet bites are from dogs or cats.
In most metro areas in the US, the main risk from pet bites is serious wound
infection, not rabies. Cat bites become infected more often than dog bites.
Claw puncture wounds from cats are treated the same as bite wounds, since they
are contaminated with saliva. Bites from pet pigs or primates also have a high
rate of wound infection. Bites on the hands or feet have a higher risk of infection
than bites to other parts of the body.
Small Indoor Pet Animal Bites: Small indoor pets (gerbils, hamsters,
guinea pigs, white mice, rats, etc.) carry no risk for rabies. Puncture wounds
from these small animals don't need to be seen. There is a small risk for developing
a wound infection.
WHEN TO CALL YOUR DOCTOR FOR ANIMAL BITE
Call 911 Now (you may
need an ambulance) If:
- Major bleeding
that can't be stopped
- First Aid Advice: Apply direct pressure to the entire wound
with a clean cloth.
Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If:
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9am
and 4pm) If:
- You think
you need to be seen
- Your last tetanus shot was more than 10 years ago
- Bat contact or exposure with or without a bite mark
Self Care at Home If:
- Tiny puncture
wound or superficial scratches (EXCEPTION: cat puncture wound)
- Bite that didn't break the skin
HOME CARE ADVICE FOR MINOR ANIMAL BITE
- Bleeding: For
any bleeding, apply continuous pressure for 10 minutes.
Cleansing: Wash all wounds immediately with soap and water for 5 minutes.
Scrub the wound enough to make it re-bleed a little. Also, flush vigorously
under a faucet for a few minutes (Reason: can prevent many wound infections).
Antibiotic ointment: Apply an antibiotic ointment (e.g. Neosporin,
Bacitracin) to the bite 3 times a day for three days.
Pain Medication: For pain relief, take acetaminophen every 4-6 hours
(Adults 650 mg) OR ibuprofen every 6-8 hours (Adults 400 mg).
- Do not take ibuprofen if you have stomach
problems, kidney disease, or other contraindications to using this
type of anti-inflammatory drug. Do not use if pregnant. Do not use
ibuprofen for >7 days without consulting your doctor.
- Do not take acetaminophen if you have liver disease.
- Read the package instructions thoroughly on all medications
that you take.
Expected Course: Most scratches, scrapes and other minor bites heal
up fine in 3 to 5 days.
- Call Your Doctor If:
- Wound begins to look infected (redness, swelling, warmth, tender
to touch, or red streaks)
- You become worse or develop any of the "Call Your Doctor"
Disclaimer: This information
is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is
provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility
for how you choose to use this information.
Adult HouseCalls Online. Copyright © 2000-2004
David Thompson, M.D. FACEP
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