Getting bitten by an animal can happen to anyone. You may be hiking or camping, and come across a wild animal that bites you to protect itself. Or maybe a neighbors dog bites you accidentally during a friendly game of catch.
Many types of animals can inflict bites on adults and children. Most animal bites are by the family pet, but the following animals can bite, too:
Animal bites can result when an animal is provoked. Provoked bites may occur when someone tries to remove food while a dog is eating. They can also happen if you tease the family pet. However, in many cases animal bites are unprovoked. Unprovoked bites can occur in your own backyard. Sometimes a raccoon or squirrel may attack for no obvious reason. Usually when this occurs, the attacking animal is seriously ill.
Bites should be examined by your physician. Immediate medical attention may not always be possible, but it should be pursued soon after the bite. Once a bite has occurred, its important to be on the lookout for signs or symptoms of infection. The following signs and symptoms may indicate infection, or that there is debris in your wound:
If youve been bitten, you should be seen immediately by a physician for several reasons:
The following types of bites pose the greatest risk of infection and should be promptly evaluated:
The physician will assess your risk of infection, check for additional injuries, and attempt to minimize scarring. Examinations following an animal bite usually involve the following:
Wounds are thoroughly examined for debris. The wound may be treated with a numbing agent in order for the doctor to look over your wound.
Your doctor could order X-rays to check for bone fractures. An X-ray ensures there is no debris in the wound that isnt visible upon inspection. Certain types of foreign material such as dirt or grass are easy to overlook.
Your doctor will irrigate the wound to clean it properly. This is important to prevent infection. Irrigation may not always prevent infection, but it does reduce the risk. A local anesthetic may be used to minimize pain.
Animal bites can result in skin tears that cannot be repaired. Debridement may be necessary to remove dead skin and tissue that cant be repaired. Debridement is usually painful. It may require a local anesthetic.
Puncture wounds arent usually closed with stitches. But some wounds must be sutured immediately after the bite.
Your doctor may recommend different methods of wound care, based on the injury you sustained. Wounds that have been sutured should be kept clean and dry. Showering is permitted, but the injury should be dried softly to avoid damaging the sutures. Wounds that are not sutured may require daily soaking or other treatments.
Antibiotics may be prescribed to prevent infection resulting from an animal bite. The following types of bites usually warrant antibiotics:
Antibiotics are usually prescribed for individuals who are elderly or who have chronic medical conditions.
Most bite wounds can be treated with over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If your bite is severe, a stronger pain medication might be prescribed for short-term pain relief.
Most animal bites heal quickly. There usually arent serious complications unless the bite was extremely severe.
Lowering the risk of being bitten by an animal is fairly easy. You can do this by using common sense and remembering the following:
Unless the bite is completely unprovoked or the animal is sick, most bites can be easily prevented.