Getting bitten by an animal can happen to anyone. You may be walking or outspanning and come across a wild animal that bites you to protect itself. Or maybe a street dog bites you accidentally while you are going for work.
Many types of animals can strike bites on adults and children. Most animal bites are from the family pet, but you can also bitten by the following animals :
What Are the Symptoms of an Animal Bite?
Your doctor should check any animal bites. Urgent medical attention may not always be possible, but you should get the bite checked by your doctor as soon as possible. Once a bite has occurred, it’s necessary to be on the outlook for signs or symptoms of infection.
The following symptoms may specify infection or the presence of debris in your wound:
- localized redness around your wound
- little hotness around the bite area
- red streaks leading away from the bite
- a fever
Why Do Animals Bite?
Animal bites can result when an animal is aroused. Aroused bites may occur if you try to remove food while a dog is eating. They can also occur if you tease your family pet.
Though, in many cases animal bites are unprovoked. Unprovoked bites can occur in your backyard. Sometimes a raccoon or squirrel may attack for no evident reason. If this occurs, the attacking animal is probably to be seriously ill.
Why Is Medical Care Critical?
If you’ve been bitten, you should quickly visit your doctor for many reasons. There may have a risk of having :
- an infection, including bacterial and rabies infections
- broken animal teeth embedded in your wound
- foreign objects embedded in your wound
- possible nerve and blood vessel damage
The following types of bites have the highest risk of infection and should be quickly evaluated:
- dog bites
- cat bites
- wild animal bites
How Are Animal Bite Diagnosed and Treated?
Your doctor will check your risk of infection, check for additional injuries, and attempt to reduce scarring. Examinations following an animal bite generally involve the following:
Wounds are minutely examined for debris. Your wound may be treated with a numbing agent before your doctor checks it.
Your doctor can perform X-rays to check for bone fractures. An X-ray can also help them confirm there’s no debris in the wound that isn’t visible upon inspection. Certain types of foreign material such as dirt or grass are easy to overlook.
Your doctor will irrigate the wound to clean it nicely. This is necessary to prevent infection. Irrigation may not always prevent infection, but it does lower the risk. A local anesthetic may be used to reduce pain.
Animal bites can result in skin tears that can’t be repaired. A procedure known as debridement may be required to remove dead or infected skin and tissue that can’t be repaired. Debridement can sometimes be painful. A local anesthetic can be required for this procedure.
Puncture wounds aren’t generally closed with stitches. But some wounds must be sutured, or stitched, quickly after the bite.
Your doctor may suggest various methods of wound care, based on the injury you sustained. Wounds that have been sutured should be kept clean and dry. Showering may be allowed, but the injury should be dried softly to avoid damaging the sutures. Wounds that aren’t sutured may need daily soaking or other treatments.
Antibiotics may be recommended to prevent infection due to an animal bite. The following types of bites typically need antibiotics:
- cat bites
- wounds that need debriding
- heavily contaminated wounds
Antibiotics are normally recommended to older adults or people who have chronic medical conditions such as diabetes.
Most bite wounds can be treated with over-the-counter pain medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If your bite wound is severe, your doctor might recommend a stronger pain medication for short-term pain relief.
What Is the Long-Term Outlook?
Most animal bites heal quickly. There normally aren’t serious complications unless the bite is extremely severe. However, it can cause scarring.
How Do I Prevent Animal Bites?
Reducing the risk of being bitten by an animal is not difficult. You can do this by using common sense and remembering the following:
- Avoid contact with unknown animals.
- Never feed or try to catch wild animals, such as squirrels, raccoons, or rats.
- Avoid disturbing animals that are known for caring for their babies.
- Never engage in aggressive playing with animals. A family dog can accidentally bite you during a friendly game of tug-of-war.
- Never insert your fingers into animal cages.
Unless the bite is completely unprovoked or the animal is sick, most bites can be controlled easily.
- Bites and stings. (n.d.)hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/pediatrics/bites_and_stings_animals_85,P00980/
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2014, November 25). Animal bites: First aidmayoclinic.org/first-aid/first-aid-animal-bites/basics/art-20056591
- Preventing dog bites. (2015, May 18)cdc.gov/features/dog-bite-prevention/