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Animal bites like cats and dogs bite are quite common. Animal bites usually occur on hands, arms, and legs. Cats and dogs bite often cause minor lesions and can be treated by appropriate wound care. According to WHO, ten million people get affected by dog bites worldwide every year. Most of these injuries are caused by our beloved pets.

Animal bites can get infected if not checked and treated immediately. Cat and dog bites range from trivial to lethal, and children are at a greater risk of getting bitten. An animal bite punctures or cuts the skin. These injuries may be shallow or deep cuts and may be life-threatening also.

Path to Safety

If a dog or cat bites people, individuals should:

  • Gently wash the wound with water and rinse.
  • Clean the injured area and apply pressure to stop bleeding.
  • Dry and cover the wound with a sterile bandage.
  • Take over the counter pain killers are given if the pain is severe.
  • Seek medical advice unless the wound is minor.

Medical Attention

Serious bites may require medical attention. Call a doctor if:

  • The bites become infected and signs of infection appear.
  • The bleeding doesn’t pause after 15mins of pressure.
  • The individual has bone fracture, nerve damage, or any serious injury.
  • The individual has diabetes or weak immune function.
  • The individual has not taken any tetanus shot within 5years.
  • The individual got bit by a pet of unknown vaccination status.

Signs that indicate infection at the site of the bite

The signs and symptoms which indicate that a wound has become infected include:

  • Redness and swelling around the wound
  • I Warmth and  pain in the wounded area
  • Pus leaking from the wound
  • Swollen glands beneath the chin,  armpits, or groin
  • Fever, chills and sweats

When Do Bites Happen

Any animal has a potential to bite. Usually, bites are caused by individual’s own pet or neighbours pet. Animals act unpredictably, and bites are always not provoked. Any animal is more likely to bite if it is disturbed, feels threatened or is overexcited.

Possible Complications

The most important complication of bites is infection. If the infection is not controlled on time, it can spread and cause infection of the blood and other parts of the body. Bites may cause the following infections: Cellulitis (affects the skin)

  • Osteomyelitis (affects bone)
  • Meningitis (affects brain)
  • Endocarditis (affects heart)
  • Sepsis (affects the blood)

Rarely, life-threatening infections like rabies and tetanus can also be caused due to bites. Dogs are most common carriers of rabies infection. All dogs should be vaccinated at least once in 3years to prevent rabies.


The treatment is based on the situation and severity of the injury caused by the bite. The doctor would do the following to treat a bite injury:

  • Clean the wound and remove the damaged tissue
  • Prescribes antibiotics to prevent infection
  • Stitch the wound if the risk is low while high-risk wounds are left open
  • Prescribe blood tests to check infection
  • Prescribe X-ray to check for any bone fractures
  • Recommend surgery to  treat the deeper wounds.
  • May give booster dose for tetanus.

How to Prevent Animal Bites

It is good to avoid playful acts with wild or stray animals, as they can be aggressive. Stray animals have high chances of carrying serious infections like rabies and tetanus. The following measures may reduce the chances of being bitten:

  • Never leave your kids unsupervised with dogs.
  • Do not disturb dogs or cats when they are eating or sleeping.
  • Do not approach the dogs or cats suddenly or run around them.
  • Avoid pampering or stroking unfamiliar dogs.
  • Always keep pets on a leash in public.

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