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Animal Bites 101: What You Need to Know

Home » Animal Bites 101: What You Need to Know
April 05, 2017
Edward Smith


Understanding Animal Bites 

From a tiny nip to a severe emergency, animal bites, especially in children, can be a parent’s worst fear. Studies show that each year in the United States, about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs alone. When you factor in the other animals who may bite humans, the numbers can be staggering. Knowing what to do in case of a bite, though, will help you feel prepared, calm, and able to help a bite victim if you find yourself in the situation.

Common Offenders

As you can see, dogs are the predominant cause of animal bits in the U.S. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), almost 20 percent of those require medical care, and, while the news publishes stories of dog bite fatalities, the WHO estimates that fewer than 20 of those bites lead to fatalities in the United States.


Globally, though, data isn’t as readily available, fatalities are much more common, especially in low and middle-income countries where rabies is transferred from canines to human.

Feline Bites

The second most common bite in the U.S. comes from another common household pet: cats. Bites from felines account for about 400,000 cat bites in the country each year, with about 17 percent causing emergency room visits.

Watch Youtube VideoAnimal Bites – Courtesy of Best Docs Network. The video explains dog bites, dog bite puncture wounds, cat bites and cat scratches.

What to Look For

The most common symptoms, broken skin, puncture marks, or bleeding, aren’t present in every bite case. Broken skin adds the possibility of infection.

If there is broken skin, watch the area closely. Redness, puffiness and swelling and warmth around the wound are all early indicators of a possible infection. Increasing pain and the presence or discharge of pus are also common signs of an infection.

Injuries to Bones, Tendons, Muscles, Nerves and Ligaments

Unbroken skin doesn’t necessarily mean that the victim is in the clear, either. Bites can still cause injuries to bones, tendons, muscles, nerves, and ligaments. Signs of damage include the inability to straighten, bend, or move the bitten body part or a loss of feeling in that area.

What to Do if you have Suffered an Animal Bite

If the animal that has bitten a human is your pet and you know that shots have been kept up-to-date, a superficial bite can be cleaned with soap and water or an antiseptic like alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. Apply an antibiotic cream or ointment and keep the area covered. Continue to monitor the wound’s progress; it should heal within ten days.

Wild Animal Bites 

Bites from wild or unknown animals or serious bites that result in bleeding require more intensive medical treatment. Wounds that aren’t actively bleeding should be left alone until you can reach medical care; wounds that are bleeding should be elevated and direct pressure applied to the location.

Seek Medical Treatment for All Bites

Once you arrive at the medical treatment facility, be prepared to undergo the following, depending on the severity of the wound:

  • Tetanus shot
  • Rabies shot series
  • X-rays
  • Stitches
  • Thorough Cleansing

You’ll also, more than likely, be asked to report the incident to your local public health department.

Being prepared to handle an animal bite is the first step towards ensuring the individual will have a greater recovery. Take a deep breath, stay calm, and you’ll be able to provide better help now that you know the basics of an animal bite.

Related Articles by Ed Smith:

Stockton Dog Bite Lawyer & Personal Injury Attorneys

I’m Ed Smith, a Stockton Dog Bite Lawyer. If you, or someone you care about has been seriously injured, please call me today at (209) 227-1931 or toll-free at (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly advice.

Since 1982, I have been helping the Stockton community in obtaining fair and just compensation for their personal injuries and wrongful deaths.

My client reviews are available at: Yelp, The lawyer ranking service, Avvo and Google.

I am among the membership of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. We are top ranked trial lawyers with verdicts over $1 Million.

Feel free to check out my Past Verdicts and Settlements page.

Image Credit: Public Domain Images at Wikimedia Commons

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