nurseinfo nursing notes for bsc, p.c. or p.b. bsc, msc, and gnm nursing

ANIMAL BITES – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Safety Tips (Prevention)

                Many different types of animals ranging from dogs and cats to hamsters, raccoons, ferrets and squirrels can bite adults and children. Many times, bites are from the family pet. Animal bites are a relatively common type of injury. In most cases, the wound that results from an animal bite is minor and can be treated with simple first aid techniques.


                Animal bites usually are either provoked or unprovoked. A provoked bite would occur if you tease a dog or try to take away the dog’s food while the dog is eating. An unprovoked bite may occur if you are sitting in your backyard and a raccoon runs out of the woods and attacks you for no known reason.

A. Dog Bites: Dog bites are most common in young children, particularly boys, who are five to nine years of age. It is estimated that around half of all children will be bitten by a dog at some point during their life. The dog involved is usually either a family dog or a dog that belongs to a friend or neighbour.

            Dog bites typically cause a puncture wound (a narrow and deep hole) in the skin. They can also cause a laceration (a jagged wound or cut) and an abrasion (a scraped area of skin). This is because dogs use their front teeth to “pin” their victim, and their hands, arms, legs or feet. Due to children’s smaller size, most bites are to their face and usually involve their lips, nose or cheek.

B. Cat Bites:  It is estimated that the majority of cat bites involve stray, female cats. All cats are predators, so they can react unpredictably, and this is particularly true of cats that are not domesticated.

           A Cat bite is not as strong as dog’s, but their teeth are sharper and often cause very deep puncture wounds. A cat bite is capable of penetrating bones and joints. Lacerations and abrasions are less common, occurring in one-in-five cases. In adults, most cat bites are to their upper limbs, particularly the fingers and hands. In children, as well as the upper limbs, the face and neck can also be bitten.



        Although most bites need to be checked by a doctor, if you do not seek immediate attention after the bite has occurred, then watch closely for signs and symptoms of infection.

These symptoms may signal there is infection or debris still in the wound (such as teeth, clothes, or dirt):

  • Redness at or around the bite side
  • Swelling
  • Pus (thick) drainage from the wound
  • Increasing pain
  • Localized warmth at the bite site
  • Red streaks leading away from the bite side
  • Fever


                The treatment of animal bites, after initial inspection, irrigation, debridement, and possible closure depends on the doctor’s experience, preference, and the type of wound and location of the wound. Thoroughly clean the wound by washing with soap and tap water as soon as possible. A light scrubbing should occur during the wash. Then put a clean and dry bandage over the area. This treatment should not replace proper evaluation by a doctor.

                Depending on the status of the bite wound, local wound care varies. If the wound was sutured on the first visit, then the wound should be kept clean and dry. Showers are permitted, but the area should be dried by patting it softly to avoid disrupting the sutures. If the wound was left open, then the doctor may recommend daily soaks or other treatments.

                If antibiotics are prescribed, it is important to recognize that they are not used to treat and infection. They are used to try to prevent infection. Those bites to areas with good blood supply (the face) generally do not require antibiotics. The most common antibiotics prescribed are amoxicillin/clavulanate (Augmentin) or a combination of 2 medication, amoxicillin and cephalexin. Other antibiotics used include erythromycin, co-trimoxazole (Bactrim) and azithromycin (Zithromax).

                If used in the initial period, a 5-day course of antibiotics is generally adequate, although some recommend only 3 days and some 7 days. These rules change if you are actively treating an infection, or if the bite was particularly dirty or contaminated. Most bite wounds are treated with over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin). Occasionally, the doctor may prescribe a stronger pain medication for the short-term control of pain from the bite.


  1. First of all, the wound should be wiped clean of any saliva if the dog is suspected to be rabid (infected by rabies). The cloth used should be discarded and care taken not to touch the saliva. Instead, the wound should be washed well with soap and running water.
  2. After drying, the wound should not be closed if it is a puncture wound, but it may be covered with a dry dressing if there is a cut or laceration.
  3. The person should be taken to the doctor immediately. Since there is a chance of being infected with tetanus, the doctor will administer an injection containing tetanus vaccine.
  4. The owner of the dog should be informed and the dog taken to a Veterinarian immediately, to check for symptoms of rabies.
  5. The dog should not be killed, but should be kept under observation for 10-15 days to see whether it develops symptoms of rabies. If it does not develop symptoms within 10 days, then chances are that it is not infected by rabies. There have been cases reported where the dog does not show symptoms of rabies, but still carried the virus. That is why it is important to ask the owner, whether the dog has been vaccinated and whether it has been behaving normally. 

In every case, a dog bite should be judged by its own merits. If there is a suspicion of the dog being infected with rabies, it is better to take the course of anti-rabies treatment to provide immunity against the disease.


  1. Do not approach a stray or unfamiliar dog, especially if its owner is not present.
  2. Do not approach a dog with quick motions or from above. Allow time for the dog to acknowledge your presence before attempting to pet it.
  3. Prior to contact with the dog, ask the owner if is ok to pet the dog.
  4. If a confrontation occurs, do not make eye contact and do not run or scream.
  5. Do not approach an unfamiliar dog while it is eating, sleeping, or caring for puppies.
  6. Do not leave young children or infants unsupervised with a dog.

ANIMAL BITES – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Safety Tips (Prevention) 

ANIMAL BITES – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Safety Tips (Prevention)