Skin > Bites/Stings > Animal or Human Bite

Animal or Human Bite

Main Symptoms

  • Bite or claw wound from a pet or farm animal
  • Bite or claw wound from a wild animal
  • Animal or human bites usually need to be seen because all of them are contaminated with saliva and prone to wound infection.

Types of Animal Bites

  • Bites from Rabies-Prone Wild Animals: Rabies is a fatal disease. Bites or scratches from a bat, skunk, raccoon, fox, coyote, or large wild animal are especially dangerous. These animals can transmit rabies even if they have no symptoms.
  • Small Wild Animal Bites: Rodents such as mice, rats, moles, gophers, chipmunks, prairie dogs and rabbits fortunately are considered free of rabies. Squirrels rarely carry rabies, but have not transmitted it to humans.
  • Large Pet Animal Bites: Most bites from pets are from dogs or cats. Dogs and cats are free of rabies in most metro areas, but stray animals are always at risk for rabies. Cats and dogs that are never allowed to roam freely outdoors are considered free of rabies. The main risk in pet bites is serious wound infection, not rabies. Cat bites become infected more often than dog bites. Claw wounds from cats are treated the same as bite wounds, since they are contaminated with saliva.  Bites from domestic animals such as horses can be handled using the guidelines listed below
  • Small Indoor Pet Animal Bites: Small indoor pets (gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, white mice, etc.) are at no risk for rabies. Puncture wounds from these small animals also don't need to be seen. They carry a small risk for wound infections.
  • Human Bites: Most human bites occur during fights, especially in teenagers. Sometimes a fist is cut when it strikes a tooth. Human bites are more likely to become infected than animal bites. Many toddler bites are safe because they don't break the skin.

Call 911 Now (your child 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

  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • Bleeding won't stop with 10 minutes of direct pressure (continue pressure until seen)
  • Bite looks infected (redness or red streaks)
    • Any contact with an animal at risk for RABIES
    • Any cut or injury from a wild animal
    • Any cut or injury from a pet animal (e.g. dog or cat) (EXCEPTION: superficial scratches that don?t go through the skin or tiny puncture wound)
    • Puncture wound (holes through skin) from cat (teeth or claws)

Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 and 4) If

  • You think your child needs to be seen
  • Last tetanus shot > 5 years ago
  • Bat contact or exposure without a bite mark

Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If

  • You have other questions or concerns

Parent Care at Home If

  • PET ANIMAL BITE: Tiny puncture wound or superficial scratches (EXCEPTION: cat puncture wound)
  • HUMAN BITE that didn't break the skin

Home Care Advice for All Animal Bites

  1. Bleeding: For any bleeding, apply continuous pressure for 5 minutes.
  2. Cleansing: Wash all wounds immediately with soap and water for 5 minutes. Also flush vigorously under a faucet for a few minutes (Reason: can prevent many wound infections). Scrub the wound enough to make it re-bleed a little. (Reason: to help with cleaning out the wound).
  3. Antibiotic ointment: Apply an antibiotic ointment to the bite 3 times a day for three days.
  4. Pain Medicine: Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain relief.
  5. Expected Course: Most scratches, scrapes and other minor bites heal nicely in 3 to 5 days.
  6. Call Your Doctor If
    • Wound begins to look infected (pus, redness, red streaks)
    • Your child becomes worse or develops any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms