Facts About Animal Bites


What to do if you are bitten by an animal or a human

  • Wash your hands and the wound thoroughly with soap and water to help prevent infection.
  • If the bite is bleeding, apply direct, continuous pressure for 5 to 10 minutes with a clean cloth or bandage.

What to know about seeking medical attention for an animal or human bite

  • Most bites will require medical evaluation if they break the skin or there are suspicions that a bone may be broken. This is even true of bites produced by a household pet.
  • Bites produced by wild animals, such as raccoons, skunks or bats, may be at risk for developing rabies, so timely medical attention is especially important in these cases. Rodents, such as mice, rats, squirrels, chipmunks, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, and rabbits, are at low risk of carrying rabies, but they may transmit other diseases.
  • If you have never received a tetanus vaccination, it has been more than 5 years since your last tetanus shot, or you cannot remember when your last tetanus shot was given, you may need another vaccination.
  • Old bites that appear to be developing infection need urgent medical attention. Signs of infection include:

    • Worsening pain
    • Warmth or redness
    • Fever
    • Drainage of pus
  • Medical treatment of animal or human bites will depend on the type, location and severity of the injury but may include washing of the wound, closure of deep wounds (possibly with stitches), antibiotics, and a “booster shot” of the tetanus vaccine.
  • Cat scratches, even from a kitten, can carry "cat scratch disease," a bacterial infection.

The most common type of animal bite is a dog bite. Follow these guidelines to help decrease the chance of your child being bitten by an animal:

  • Never leave a young child alone with an animal.
  • Teach your child not to tease or hurt an animal, or to take food or a toy away from an animal, even a pet.
  • Teach your child to avoid strange dogs, cats, and other animals.
  • Have your pets licensed and immunized against rabies and other diseases.
  • Keep your pets in a fenced yard or secured to a leash.