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What To Do After an Animal Bite

Animal bites are a serious threat to children and adults around the world. From bites from domestic pets such as dogs and cats to more exotic animals such as monkeys and snakes, it’s important to recognize how to care for a bite and when to turn to your doctor for care. After all, certain bites can lead to infections or transmit rabies, and it’s important that you get the prompt medical attention you need from your general doctor.

How do I care for an animal bite?

First, you should always call your general practitioner to explain the situation. They will gather the information they need and ask you questions about the bite to determine whether you need to head to the ER, need to come into their practice right away, or if you can simply care for the bite on your own and monitor it for signs of infection.

Here are some first aid tips for handling an animal bite:

  • Gently wash (do not soak) the wound with water two times a day
  • Do not use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, as these things can slow healing
  • Apply Vaseline to the area
  • Wrap a bandage over the area to protect it

If you have to turn to your general doctor for an animal bite they will provide you with detailed instructions for wound care and cleaning at home. They may also recommend pain relievers to ease discomfort and swelling. If there are stitches, additional instructions will be provided with regards to caring for the stitches and when to come into the office to have them removed.

What are the signs of an infected animal bite?

It’s important to spot early signs of an infection so that you seek immediate medical care to prevent unnecessary surgeries, amputation, and other complications. Signs of an infected animal bite include:

  • Increased pain, redness, and swelling
  • Difficulty moving the limb or the affected area
  • Oozing or drainage
  • An abscess
  • Red streaks on the skin
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Swollen lymph nodes

When should I see a doctor for an animal bite?

You should seek immediate medical attention for an animal bite if:

  • The bite is deep
  • The skin around the bite turns pale or cold
  • You are unable to move the limb or you have trouble moving the limb
  • The area around the bite is numb or tingling
  • The skin is severely torn or you can’t stop the bleeding
  • Pain, swelling, or redness is getting worse
  • You are concerned about the risk of rabies
  • Your last tetanus shot was more than 10 years ago

If you ever have questions or concerns about animal bites know that your general doctor is typically the first medical professional you should call. Of course, if the bite was from a poisonous animal or is severe, it’s important that you call 911 or seek immediate medical attention from your nearest emergency room.