dog bite treatment

Animal Bites – Causes Symptoms Treatment and Care


Overview of Animal Bites  

Bites to the hands and legs are very common to everyone. Most cases involve children than adults to be injured by an animal bite. The animals that may bite include dogs, cats, rodents, rabbits, ferrets, farm animals, monkeys, and reptiles.  Those bites can cause pain and other problems, life-threatening issues especially when they become infected inside the body and blood circulation.

dog bite treatment

Early and proper treatment for animal bites is very important to prevent problems from infectious bites because they can be life-threatening wounds. The seriousness of a bite depends on the type of animal, the location it has bitten, our immunity strength and whether a foreign object is embedded in the wound.

What are Animal Bites?

An animal bite is a wound, caused by the teeth usually results in a break in the skin due to the excessive pressure on body tissue from the bite. It also involves the contusions which can occur without a break in the skin. Bites can be provoked or unprovoked. Other bite attacks may be in fact unprovoked. Animal bites mostly cause serious infections and even death.

Animal bites include injuries not only from the teeth of reptiles, mammals but fish and amphibians. Arthropods can also bite and leave injuries. Cat and human bites can carry a higher risk of infection. If the bitten animal has an identifiable owner, ask whether it is vaccinated currently against rabies. If it is a stray animal, call the police.

What Causes Animal Bites?

The most common cause of bites is Pets. In the United States, every year Millions of animal bites occur. Some of the animals that are more likely to bite are.

  • Dog bites: Dogs are usually the domestic pets to cause animal bites. Rabies virus can be caused by dog bite.
  • Cat bites: Cat bites can be dangerous both to other animals and to humans because cats carry bacteria in their mouths that are capable of causing tissue infections in bite wounds.
  • Snake bites: Snakebite is often dangerous, especially a venomous snake. Worldwide every year up to five million people are bitten by snakes.
  • Monkey bites: Some of the studies found monkey bites account for 2–21% of animal bite injuries.
  • Mosquito bites: Mosquito is an insect belongs to a fly family. A Mosquito bite can cause diseases malaria which can be life-threatening. Children usually get a stronger reaction than adults.
  • Fire ant bites: Fire ants are small, red or black venomous ants with a painful, stinging bite. They can cause a severe allergic reaction in some people.
  • Scorpion bites: These are eight-legged arachnids and if they bite, a very Intense pain, numbness, tingling, and swelling occurs around the sting.
  • Bees: Bees are the most dangerous insects that can cause Pain, redness and swelling at the site of the sting.
  • Human Bites: Human bite can be the most dangerous wounds contain a lot of bacteria and carry a high risk of infection. These infections can develop quickly and result in serious problems.

Signs and Symptoms of Animal Bites

There are a number of signs and symptoms caused by Bite wounds. They are

  • Redness
  • Warmth
  • Continued pain beyond 24 hours
  • Drainage from the wound
  • Minor wounds
  • Major cuts
  • Crushing injuries
  • Infection by bacteria including rabies
  • Introduction of toxins into the wound by venomous animals such as some snakes.
  • Introduction of other foreign objects into the wound, causing inflammation and itching

Signs that your infection may be spreading include:

  • glands Swollen around the elbow or in the armpit
  • Fever
  • Tiredness
  • Night sweats
  • Shakes
  • Tissue damage due to tearing and scratching
  • Serious hemorrhage if major blood vessels are cut
  • Pale or numb finger(s)
  • Swelling or bruising
  • Deformity
  • Loss of finger motion

If you develop these symptoms, you must take emergency treatment.

Animal bite - mosquito infections control

Risk factors for animal bite infections

Risk factors that increase the chances of a bite turning into an infection include the following:

  • not thoroughly and swiftly washing the bite
  • the bite caused a deep wound
  • the bite also caused a fracture or other damage
  • a weakened immune system

What are the Complications caused by Animal bites?

The main complication that arises is from animal bites and bites from human is Infection. They rarely cause any serious problems as long as the infected bites are treated promptly using antibiotics. However, an infection can cause serious complications if left untreated. The complications include:

  • Infections mainly Tetanus and Rabies
  • blood poisoning (sepsis)
  • swelling and stiffening of the joints
  • tissue damage

Dos and Don’ts of Animal Bites

Getting bit by any animal can be a very painful experience so it is important to know some things that will help you to escape from the danger of animal bites. Here is some list of dos and don’ts that you need to follow:

  • Do not go nearer to any animal that behaves strangely
  • Do not try to catch the animal or try to handle animals
  • Teach children not to disturb any animals while they eat, sleep or care for their baby animals. Children should never be left alone with animals.
  • Neuter your pet animals.
  • Do not touch animals that are sick or injured.
  • If a dog approaches, stay calm, don’t scream and stand still like a tree talk in a firm voice and avoid eye contact.
  • Never pet a dog without letting it sniff you.
  • If a dog attacks, curl up into a ball to protect your face, neck, and head
  • Do not let your pets roam; keep them restrained. Train and socialize them to stay calm around people.
  • Educate children about bite prevention.

Medical advice for Animal Bites

If you have been bitten by any animal, you should immediately go to your doctor for treatment because there may be a risk of getting:

  • An infection, including bacterial and rabies infections with like redness, swelling, and pain.
  • Broken teeth of an animal embedded in your wound
  • Severe bleeding
  • Foreign objects embedded in your wound
  • Possible nerve and blood vessel damage
  • The wound is deep, especially if it is a puncture wound. Cat and human bites and even any cuts on knuckles caused by a fight should always be seen by a doctor.
  • You have been bitten on the face, hand, foot or neck, or over a joint.
  • See the doctor if you suspect that the animal may be rabid or the bite is from a wild or stray animal or if definite proof cannot be found of the current wound, take vaccination of the animal if you haven’t had an anti-fungal injection within the past five years.

Diagnosis for Animal Bite

Before diagnosing the wound, the first thing your doctor will do is, examine the wound and ask about how the injury occurred, assess your risk of infection, checks for other additional injuries, and attempt to minimize scarring. A complete and honest explanation of the events will help your doctor treat you properly.

For animal bites, it will be more helpful if you are able to describe the type of animal, its general health, behavior and known the rabies vaccine status. After listening to you, Examinations following an animal bite usually involve the following:

  • X-Rays: For major wounds, your doctor will order an X-rays because they may be used to identify any damage and check for bone fractures to the injured parts like hand, leg, etc. It can also help them ensure there’s no debris in the wound that isn’t visible upon inspection. It is easy to overlook certain types of foreign material such as dirt or grass.
  • Irrigation: Irrigation is a process to clean the wound properly. This can help you prevent infection. It may not always prevent infection, it does reduce the risk. To minimize pain, a local anesthetic may be used.
  • Debridement: Debridement is a procedure may be necessary to remove dead or infected skin and tissue that can’t be repaired because some animal bites can result in skin tears that can’t be repaired. This procedure sometimes is painful so you may need a local anesthetic for this procedure.
  • Closure: Usually, puncture wounds cannot be closed with stitches. However, some wounds must be stitched or sutured, immediately after the bite.
  • Wound Care: Your doctor may suggest some methods of wound care based on the injury you sustained. Wounds should be kept clean and dry always. Older adults or people who have chronic medical conditions such as diabetes are usually prescribed Antibiotics.

In most of the cases, the bite wounds can be treated with over-the-counter pain medications. If your bite is severe, your doctor might prescribe stronger medicines for short-term pain relief.

Treatment for Animal Bites

Most of the animal bites can be treated at home, only if your reaction is mild. However, getting immediate treatment for any animal bite can minimize the risk of problems. It needs to take a T.T injection for all bites. The minor wounds may need dressing and sometimes antibiotics. All bites to the injured part require careful cleansing.

Major wounds may have to treat as inpatients and also for rabies prevention. Some bites may be treated with oral medication while some people need to stay in the hospital for treatment. If the wound is serious, it usually requires surgery. In the case of animal bites, follow-up care is crucial to make sure that infection is controlled or has not developed.

Principles of care for Dog Bite:

  • early medical management;
  • irrigation and cleansing of the wound;
  • primary closure if the wound is low-risk for developing infection;
  • prophylactic antibiotics for high-risk wounds or people with immune deficiency;
  • rabies post-exposure treatment depending on the dog vaccination status;
  • administration of tetanus vaccine if the person has not been adequately vaccinated.

Principles of care for Cat Bites:

  • early medical management including wound cleansing;
  • prophylactic antibiotics to decrease infection risk;
  • rabies post-exposure treatment depending on the animal vaccination status;
  • Administration of tetanus vaccine if the person has not been adequately vaccinated.

Principles of care for Monkey Bites:

  • early medical management including wound cleansing;
  • prophylactic antibiotics to decrease infection risk;
  • rabies post-exposure treatment depending on the animal vaccination status;
  • administration of tetanus vaccine if the person has not been adequately vaccinated.

What your healthcare professional do?

The healthcare professional treating you may:

  • clean the wound and remove any damaged tissue
  • prescribe a course of antibiotics to prevent infection
  • recommend specific treatment to prevent infections such as tetanus if you’re felt to be at risk
  • close the wound with stitches if the risk of infection is thought to be low – high-risk wounds will usually be left open as this means they’re easier to keep clean
  • arrange blood tests to check for infection, or an X-ray to check for any damage to your bones and see if there’s anything embedded in your wound, such as a tooth
  • refer you for an assessment by a specialist if the bite penetrated a joint or there’s severe damage, such as damage to bones or nerves – surgery may be needed in these cases
  • if you’re bitten by a person with hepatitis or HIV, there’s a tiny chance of the infection spreading if the bite is contaminated with blood, so you may be offered treatment to stop you becoming infected

Additional care for animal bites

Depending on the type of bite and its severity, your doctor will take the following steps:

  • Evaluate the site for risk of infection
  • Assess the site for broken or embedded teeth or other foreign material that could lead to infection
  • Determine whether there may be underlying nerve, tendon or blood vessel damage
  • Analyze the type of animal and whether there’s a risk of rabies, the circumstances of the bite and whether the patient is up to date on tetanus

Certain types of bites require immediate medical attention. These include:

  • Dog bites, due to the crushing mechanism of the bite
  • Cat bites, due to the puncture mechanism of the bite
  • Any bite caused by a wild animal or stray dog or cat
  • Human bites due to the high risk for infection that could lead to serious complications
  • Any bite with the possibility of teeth, dirt or other matter infecting the wound
  • Bites that cause excessive bleeding
  • Bites causing numbness to the wound area or another area of the body
  • Bites with other symptoms or special concerns

How Do I Prevent Animal Bites?

To lower the risk of being bitten by an animal you should remember the following rules:

  • Avoid contact with unknown animals.
  • Never feed or attempt to catch animals such as squirrels, raccoons, or rats.
  • Avoid disturbing animals that are caring for their babies.
  • Never engage in forceful playing with animals. A family pet can accidentally bite you during a friendly game.
  • Never keep your fingers into animal cages.

Preventing dog bites

  • Don’t approach an unfamiliar animal.
  • Do not run from a dog, panic or make loud noises.
  • If an unfamiliar dog approaches you, remain motionless. Do not run or scream. Avoid direct eye contact.
  • Don’t disturb a dog while they’re eating, sleeping, or taking care of their puppies.
  • Allow a dog to sniff and smell you before you attempt to pet it.
  • Scratch the animal under the chin, not on the head.
  • Report strays or dogs displaying strange behavior to your local animal control.
  • If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and remain motionless.
  • Be sure to cover your ears and neck with your hands and arms.
  • Avoid eye contact with the dog and remain calm.
  • Don’t encourage your dog to play aggressively.
  • Never use your hands to break up a dog fight.
  • Use a loud noise to get the dogs’ attention.
  • Where a protective glove when administering medicine to a dog.
  • Before petting an unfamiliar dog, let he/she sniff your hand first.

Preventing cat bites

  • Do not approach a cat if he/she is eating or if it is a mother with her litter.
  • Use caution when approaching an unfamiliar cat.

Prevention of snake bites

  • avoid tall grassy areas;
  • wear protective shoes/boots;
  • keep storage areas clear of rodents;
  • remove rubbish, woodpiles and low brush from around the home;
  • store food in rodent-proof containers, raise beds above floor level and tuck mosquito nets securely under sleeping mats within the home.

What happens if cuts, lacerations or puncture wounds are left untreated?

An untreated cut or puncture wound may lead to complications such as:

  • Infection
  • Blood infection (Sepsis)
  • Gangrene
  • Amputation
  • Loss of function or movement
  • Nerve damage
  • Organ damage

Facts about Animal Bites:

  • Animal bites are a significant cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide.
  • Worldwide, up to five million people are bitten by snakes every year; the majority in Africa and South-East Asia.
  • Prompt medical treatment with appropriate antivenom is required for poisonous snake bites.
  • Dog bites account for tens of millions of injuries annually; the highest risk is among children.
  • Rabies is a significant health concern following dog bites, cat bites and monkey bites.
  • Many different types of animals ranging from dogs, cats, hamsters, raccoons, ferrets, and squirrels can bite adults and children.
  • Many times, bites are from the family pet.
  • Most states require that animal bites be reported due to which the person bitten will be asked to fill out a form with information about the bite
  • Aside from simple data collection, this can be important in cases of rabies cases to help officials track location(s) and monitor a possible spread of the disease.

Summary of Animal Bites

  • Adults or children who have been bitten or scratched by an animal or human should see a healthcare provider in the following situations:
  • An animal has bitten and broken the skin and bleeding does not stop after applying pressure for 15 minutes, a bone may be broken, or there is other serious injury.
  • A dog or cat has bitten the hand, foot or head, or has bitten another area and caused a large wound.
  • A bite victim has diabetes, liver disease, cancer, HIV infection, or takes any medications that could weaken the immune system.
  • There are signs or symptoms of infection, including worsening pain, warmth or redness, pus-like discharge, or fever.
  • If the bite victim had their last tetanus shot more than five years ago, or if they cannot remember when they received their last tetanus shot.
  • If there is a concern about possible rabies, this is particularly true for travelers in certain developing countries where animal vaccination programs to prevent rabies are not commonplace.

FAQs of Animal Bites

When to see a doctor if an animal bites?

You should also seek emergency treatment immediately after any animal bites you.

Can an animal bite kill?

Once an animal bites a person, its virus travels up the nerves in the body and leads to severe infection in the body. If you delay the treatment, it can become a life threatening.

What to do if an animal bites?

First thing you need to do when an animal bites is, identify the animal, immediately wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water and apply an iodine-based antiseptic if available as a first aid procedure. Consult a physician as soon as possible.

Can you get rabies if you are not bitten?

People can get rabies only through a bite, scratches, abrasions, open wounds or mucous membranes from a rabid animal.

What happens if any animal bite is left untreated?

It the wound is left untreated, it can be a serious problem and sometimes cause death if the wound got infected.

What is the Long-Term Outlook?

Most animal bites heal quickly unless the bite is extremely severe. There usually are not serious complications but, it can lead to scarring.

How to Prevent Animal Bites?

It is fairly easy to lower the risk of being bitten by an animal using some common sense and remember to take some self-care like avoiding contact with unknown animals, avoid disturbing animals that are known for caring for their babies, never stick your fingers into animal cages, etc.

Can an antibiotics help cure animal bites?

Antibiotics that are prescribed by your doctor can prevent infection from an animal bite. These Antibiotics can give relief from pain and prevent it from spreading. Antibiotics are generally prescribed to older adults or people who have chronic medical like diabetes.

How to treat animal bites at home?

If the wound just breaks the skin, treat it as a minor wound. Cleanse the bite carefully and thoroughly with soap and running water. Apply antibiotic cream on the wound and a loose sterile bandage. Allow for some bleeding to cleanse the wound if the bite is a deep puncture of the skin or the skin is badly torn and see your doctor without delay.

Can an animal bite cause infection?

The major fear of all animal bites is an infection. When an animal bites, bacteria in its mouth can enter the wound and begin growing and can cause pain, tissue damage or even life-threatening problems.

How long does it take an animal bite to heal?

Healing of the wound depends on the type of the animal that has bitten. If it is a minor wound it could take 2 days to 2 weeks to heal. Watch for signs of infection that might include swelling, redness, pain, or pus coming from the wounded area.

Who is responsible for animal attacks?

If the animal has an identifiable owner, ask whether it is currently vaccinated against rabies. If it was a stray or wild animal, Call Police and Fire Dispatch at (608) 255-2345.

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