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Animal Bites, Scratches and Injuries to Humans

Prompt medical care is essential


Dog bite on arm from a 3 pound Maltese by Julianna on Flickr

Dog bite on arm from a 3 pound Maltese

by Julianna on Flickr
The purpose of this Quick Tip is to alert pet owners of the potential danger of animal bites and scratches; not to give human medical advice about bite wound care. Animal bites and injuries must be discussed with and treated by a human physician, as soon as possible, if the injuries are severe.

Animals, even well-trained ones, can be unpredictable. Exercise caution when dealing with animals that are stressed, frightened or injured. A pet may exhibit fractious behavior that is not characteristic of "normal" behavior when ill or hurt. Wild animals should not be handled when sick or injured. The best option for wild animals is to call the local animal control or game management for assistance.

Bites happen
I have seen people brush off injuries sustained from an animal because they are embarrassed or frustrated at getting bit while helping the animal. Human injury is the main reason that many veterinarians do not allow owners to restrain their pets for procedures.

Looks can be deceiving
At first glance, some injuries may not look like much damage has been done, either. A puncture wound (without tearing of the flesh around it) is usually a small hole that closes quickly. This can be deceiving, as the bacteria and damage are "trapped" below the surface, which can lead to infection.

In other instances, diseases may be spread by the bite or scratch, such as Rabies and Cat-Scratch Disease in addition to the problems from the wound itself.

Basic wound care: All wounds should be washed immediately with soap and water. Please see your physician or urgent care for best chances of quick and uneventful healing.

If not treated promptly, the signs of infection are: redness or discoloration, swelling, pain, warm-to-touch, discharge. All bite wounds should be taken seriously. Please consult with your physician if you have any questions.

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