Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Overview Incidence Symptoms Evaluation Treatment rabies tetanus Home Care pain in adults pain in children warning signs Complications Underlying Cause Types

Animal Bites Treatment

Treatment for an animal bite depends on the location and severity of the wound. Because animal's mouths contain bacteria, all animal bites require careful wound care, in order to prevent infection. For puncture wounds and deep wounds, additional treatment may include antibiotics and a tetanus vaccination. Depending on the animal, a person might also require rabies vaccination. Severe animal bites may require surgery to repair damaged tissue.

Treatment for animal bites may include:

  • Antibiotics for wounds
  • Wound irrigation
    • Rinsing the wound
  • Wound cleansing
  • Wound exploration
  • Wound debridement:
    • Removal of dead or dirty tissue
    • Removal of foreign bodies in the wound
  • Tetanus vaccination
  • Rabies prevention
  • Surgery to repair damaged tissue

For more information:

Animal Bites Rabies

Animals that may carry rabies include:

  • Bats
  • Cats
  • Cattle
  • Dogs
  • Foxes
  • Raccoons
  • Skunks

Rodents and rabbits rarely carry rabies.

Dogs and cats can carry rabies if they are not up-to-date on rabies vaccinations. However, rabies is very rare in dogs and cats. Animal Control personnel decide whether an animal should be observed for signs of rabies over a 10 day period. The animal is considered safe if it does not show signs of rabies over the 10 day period. If the animal cannot be captured, the Animal Control officer and physician will decide whether rabies vaccines should be given to someone who has been bitten.

Animal Bites Tetanus

Animal bites rarely cause tetanus. Most children born in the US have received three tetanus shots (boosters) in the past, because these boosters are part of the usual vaccination schedule. Additional tetanus boosters are given every 10 years.

Those who require treatment to prevent tetanus include:

Dirty wounds include:
  • Wounds that occur outdoors
  • Wounds that contain dirt or foreign material
  • Wounds caused by bites

Treatment Options

Tetanus Vaccine and TIG Recommendations
HistoryClean, Minor WoundOther Wounds
< 3 boostersgive Tdgive Td + TIG
3 boosterspossible Tdpossible Td

Clean and minor wounds may need a booster if it has been more than 10 years since the last tetanus vaccine. Other wounds may need a booster if it has been more than 5 years since last tetanus vaccine.

Continue to Animal Bites Home Care

Last Updated: Mar 9, 2011 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
Copyright DSHI Systems, Inc. Powered by: FreeMD - Your Virtual Doctor

PubMed Animal Bites References
  1. Brook I. Management of human and animal bite wounds: an overview. Adv Skin Wound Care. 2005 May;18(4):197-203. [15920371]
  2. Brook I. Microbiology and management of human and animal bite wound infections. Prim Care. 2003 Mar;30(1):25-39, v. [12825249]
  3. Talan DA, Citron DM, Abrahamian FM, Moran GJ, Goldstein EJ. Bacteriologic analysis of infected dog and cat bites. Emergency Medicine Animal Bite Infection Study Group. N Engl J Med. 1999 Jan 14;340(2):85-92. [9887159]
  4. Wolff KD. Management of animal bite injuries of the face: experience with 94 patients. J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 1998 Jul;56(7):838-43. [9663574]
FreeMD is provided for information purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for evaluation and treatment by a physician. Please review our terms of use.