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Animal Bites

Symptoms, Causes, Questions & Related Topics

Animal bites are an extremely common occurrence in the United States, with millions happening each year. And while you may be afraid of being bitten by a wild animal while hiking or camping, household pets are responsible for the majority of animal bites. In fact, dogs – the pet whose nickname is “man’s best friend” – are the culprit for most animal bites, with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reporting approximately 4.5 million each year in the U.S. Cat bites are the next most common, followed by – in no particular order – bats, skunks, raccoons, foxes, and other animals that are found in neighborhoods and near homes.

While dog bites are the most common in the U.S., cat bites run a higher risk for causing infections. Since cats’ teeth are small, long, and sharp, their puncture wounds are deep, but the skin can quickly close over the bite, trapping bacteria in the wound and causing an infection of the lymph nodes called cat scratch fever. Symptoms of cat scratch fever include a wound that turns red, bumpy, and warm.

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Treatment for animal bites not only depends on the type of animal, but also on the extent of the wound. If the wound is minor, you should:

  • Wash the wound with warm soap and water
  • Apply an antibiotic cream
  • Apply a bandage to the clean wound

If the wound is minor, but eventually becomes red, painful, warm, and/or swollen or if the wound is more severe, it’s important to seek medical attention as you may require stitches, sutures, or antibiotic treatment.

If you’re ever bitten by an animal that’s unfamiliar to you – whether it’s a stray dog or a wild raccoon – it’s important to pursue medical attention immediately, as the animal could be infected with rabies. Rabies is a serious and sometimes deadly virus that is transmitted through salvia when an infected animal bites or scratches a human.