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First Aid: When Animals Bite

Posted by Alex Francis on

Whether you are at home or out on the trail, animal bites can pose a tricky first aid problem.  For most Americans, house pets are most likely to cause animal bites (bad Fido!)

Should you find yourself in such a situation, here's what we recommend to do.  If the wound looks minor, simply wash the wound thoroughly with warm water and soap.  Then use an antibiotic cream or rubbing alcohol to keep the wound from being infected.  Cover the wound with a clean bandage.

If the wound is bleeding, you'll want to first apply pressure with gauze or clean cloth, then see a doctor.  Animal bites are prone to infection, and since the skin has been broken, you will be at a higher risk.

If the wound has become infected (evidenced by swelling, redness, or heightened pain), then you didn't follow the underlined instructions above, so we'll bold it this time.  See a doctor ASAP.

If you are bitten by a wild animal, or any animal you don't know to be vaccinated for rabies, definitely SEE YOUR DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY.  As rare as rabies is, you don't want to take any chances.  Rabies is easily treatable, but only if caught early.

Depending on the type of animal that bites you, you may be more or less to worry about.  Dogs may bite more people, but typically, the injury isn't a serious as a cat bite.  This is because cats carry more diseases that can be passed through their bites.  Cats also bite deeper than dogs, just to make sure they get you good!  Bats are likely the worst, as they carry rabies most frequently (per episode of bat bite), than either cats or dogs.

So in short, if your wound doesn't break the skin, a good clean with a standard first aid kit will do the trick.  For anything more serious, stop the bleeding, then see your doctor when you can.


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