Animal bites: what you need to know

Animal bites are a common injury that can lead to serious complications. It is estimated that dog bites account for about 1% of all injury-related emergency room visits in the United States each year. While most animal bites are not life-threatening, they can become dangerous when they become infected. When this happens, the bacteria can quickly spread to other parts of the body.

Bites from wild animals are possible, but most animal bites come from animals you know, such as pets. When animals are stressed or threatened, they tend to bite.

This article will describe the different types of animal bites and how to treat them. It will also explain when to seek medical care.

Get some helpful tips on how to treat dog bites at home

Why do animals bite people?

Animals don’t usually bite unless they are threatened in some way. Animals may bite if they are stressed, frightened or frightened. They may also bite to protect something important to them, such as their food. Sick or injured animals are also more likely to bite. A pet that is playing with you may bite or lightly bite you.

Different types of animal bites

Animal bites vary depending on the type of animal involved. Animal bites, which look like cracked or torn skin, are most likely to occur in children. Dogs are the most common cause of animal bites. Cats are less likely to bite, but their bites are more susceptible to infection.

wild animal bites

Wildlife bites are rare but can be serious. Wild animals generally do not approach humans unless they feel threatened or sick. Wildlife bites can come from bats, raccoons, skunks, or foxes.

Rabies is a problem if you are bitten by a wild animal. Although very rare, it is possible to contract rabies from animal bites.

How to Treat Rabies

dog bite

Dog bites are the most common type of animal bites and usually happen to dogs you know. It is estimated that dog bites account for 85% to 90% of all animal bites in the United States. Most dog bites occur in children.

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When a dog bites the skin, its tiny front teeth often cause the skin to tear. This results in an open wound with jagged edges.

cat bite

While cat bites are not as common as dog bites, they can be more dangerous. This is because cats have longer and sharper teeth than dogs. This can lead to deeper cuts and increase the risk of infection. This is especially worrisome for an older cat, who may lose some of their teeth in the wound.

If you are concerned about an infection from an animal bite, contact your healthcare provider right away.


Symptoms of an animal bite include:

  • broken or torn skin
  • stab wound
  • pain
  • Blood stasis
  • tendon or joint injury

What Causes an Animal Bite Infection?

Any time the skin barrier is disrupted, the risk of infection increases. Animal bites can quickly lead to infection because bacteria found in the animal’s mouth are then introduced into the skin.

It is estimated that about 50% of dog bites are infected with bacteria such as staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Pasteurella, and carbon dioxide phagocytes. Wild animals and unvaccinated animals can also carry the rabies virus.

signs of infection after surgery


Rabies is a serious viral infection of some warm-blooded animals. Once an adult or child develops symptoms of rabies, the virus is almost always fatal. If you are bitten by an unknown animal, it is important to discuss your rabies risk with your healthcare provider. Rabies can be prevented by immunization after animal bites.

Cats are the most common rabies in domestic animals. Raccoons, bats and skunks are the most common wild animals.

When to seek medical care

Do not hesitate to contact your healthcare provider after being bitten by an animal. Seek medical attention if you or your child is bitten by an unknown wild animal, stray animal, or pet.

Other times to seek medical care include:

  • bites on your face, head, neck, hands, or feet
  • The bleeding won’t stop
  • deep wound
  • You can see muscles or bones exposed
  • signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, increased pain, or pus from the wound
  • You have a fever
  • It has been more than 10 years since your last tetanus shot
  • You are not sure if the animal has been vaccinated against rabies

If an animal bite does not stop the bleeding, keep applying pressure to the emergency room or urgent care clinic.

If you or your child is bitten by a behaving animal, seek medical attention immediately and call an animal control center or local police.


To diagnose an animal bite, your healthcare provider will perform a thorough medical history and physical examination. This will help them determine your risk of infection and what treatment you need. Your healthcare provider will ask several questions, including:

  • What kind of animal bites you?
  • Do you know if this animal has been vaccinated against rabies?
  • How do bites happen?
  • How did you clean up the wound?
  • Did you use antibiotic ointment?
  • Is the animal’s behavior strange or aggressive?
  • When was your last tetanus shot?


To treat animal bites at home, wash immediately with soap and water. Flush the wound for at least 3 to 5 minutes. If the wound is bleeding, press firmly with gauze. After the bleeding stops, apply antibiotic cream or ointment to a clean bandage and cover the wound.

If the wound looks deep or won’t stop bleeding, you may need stitches. This is especially true for animal bites on the face.

Your healthcare provider may recommend antibiotic medication to prevent infection after the bite. Animal bites on the hands and fingers are the most likely to cause infection. Giving antibiotics to people with hand wounds can reduce the risk of infection from 28% to 2%.


Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to help prevent animal bites. Because most animal bites happen to children, it’s important to teach them how to stay safe around animals. It is absolutely impossible to approach an unknown animal. Do not leave children alone with animals, even pets. Teach children to avoid touching animals’ faces and never tease pets.

Never approach a wild animal, especially if it is behaving strangely or aggressively. Do not try to separate animals that are fighting.

To reduce your dog’s risk of biting, make sure they are trained and socialized. Socializing with dogs from a young age can reduce their chances of becoming frightened and biting out of fear.

Finally, make sure your family and your pets are up to date with their vaccinations.


Animal bites are a relatively common injury that can lead to serious infections. While wild animal bites are possible, most animal bites come from known animals, such as pets. Animals tend to bite when they feel stressed or threatened in some way. The best way to prevent animal bites is to never approach an animal you don’t know, and never tease or play too rough with your pet.

VigorTip words

Being bitten by an animal or seeing your child bitten by an animal can be a scary experience. Fortunately, most animal bites heal on their own without complications. If you have been bitten and are concerned that the wound has become infected, seek medical attention immediately.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does it take for an animal bite infection to go away?

    The duration of an animal bite infection depends on several factors. If the infection has spread to the blood or other parts of the body, it can take months to heal.

  • How painful are animal bites?

    Depending on the severity, animal bites can be very painful. Seek immediate medical attention if your pain feels out of control.

  • Which animal has the strongest bite?

    Cat bites tend to be deeper than dog bites because their teeth are longer and sharper.