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First Aid for Animal Bites

Last updated March 5, 2018

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD MPH

Animal Bites could result in minor injuries, where the skin remains intact or there is minor bruising.


What is Animal Bites?

Animal Bites could result in minor injuries, where the skin remains intact or there is minor bruising.  Or, sometimes the animal teeth can break the skin causing bleeding and deep skin punctures.

What are the Causes of Animal Bites?

  • Dog bites are the most common cause of Animal Bites in the United States; cats are the second most common cause
  • Stray raccoons, bats, skunks, foxes, rabbits, squirrels and farm animals may also be the cause

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Animal Bites?

The signs and symptoms of Animal Bites include:

  • Bleeding, bruising and puncture wounds
  • If the wound is infected, there could be swelling, redness, pain, fever, and drainage (of pus)
  • Occasionally, there could be allergic reactions

How is First Aid administered for Animal Bites?

First Aid tips for Animal Bites include:

  • The individual himself/herself, or the person providing First Aid should wash his/her hands thoroughly
  • Then, the bite wound must be washed immediately and thoroughly with soap and running water
  • Pressure should be applied with a clean cloth to control bleeding

 The extent of the injury must be determined:

  • If it is just a minor bruise without a puncture, the person should apply an antibiotic cream/ointment and cover the wound with clean bandage to reduce risk of infection
  • On the other hand seek immediate medical attention after sterilization of the wound if; there is break in the skin, or there is a deep puncture wound or badly torn skin condition, if it is a stray animal bite, if immunization status of the animal is unknown, or if your are not sure about your last tetanus immunization (booster)
  • Your physician may recommend antibiotics and tetanus shots. If the animal is suspected to carry rabies, anti-rabies treatment will be administered
  • Call animal control to isolate the animal for observation and determination of the animal’s rabies status

Who should administer First Aid for Animal Bites?

  • First Aid can be administered by the person himself/herself, or someone in close proximity to the person, depending on the wound severity
  • You should seek medical help, in case there is a deep puncture wound, excessive bleeding, laceration (badly torn skin), infection possibilities, or suspicion of rabies

What is the Prognosis of Animal Bites?

  • The prognosis is good with the administration of appropriate care and medical attention (if necessary), in a timely manner
  • Poor prognosis is associated with rabid animal bites and multiple bite wounds caused by animal attacks
  • Failure to seek appropriate medical help may cause infection to spread to the bone, causing osteomyelitis

How can Animal Bites be Prevented?

  • Avoid unnecessary contact with stray animals
  • Avoid provocation of animals

What are certain Crucial Steps to be followed?

  • Sterilize the wound immediately, apply local pressure to control bleeding (if required) and seek medical attention, with instances of severe bites
  • If there is swelling, redness, or other signs of infection; seek immediate medical attention, irrespective of the severity of the wound
  • People with weakened immune systems, those on long term steroids, chemotherapy, and have had their spleen removed (splenectomy), should ALWAYS seek medical attention after an Animal Bite

What are some Useful Resources for Additional Information?


References and Information Sources used for the Article:


Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:


Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: May 28, 2013
Last updated: March 5, 2018