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Animal or Human Bite

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Definition:

  • Bite or claw wound from a pet, farm or wild animal
  • Bite from a child or adult human

Risk of Bites

  • Animal or human bites usually need to be seen. All of of them are dirty with saliva (spit) and can get infected.

Types of Wounds

  • Bruising. There is no break in the skin. No risk of infection.
  • Scrape (Abrasion) or Scratch. A wound that doesn’t go all the way through the skin. Low chance of infection. Antibiotic drugs are not needed.
  • Laceration (cut). A wound that goes through the skin to the fat or muscle tissue. Some chance of infection. Most need to be seen. Cleaning the wound can help prevent this. Antibiotic drugs may be needed.
  • Puncture Wound. Greater risk of infection. Puncture wounds from cat bites are more likely to get infected. Antibiotic drugs may be needed.

Types of Bites

  • Bites from Wild Animals.  Some wild animals can have rabies. Rabies is a disease that can kill people. Bites or scratches from any large wild animal can pass on rabies. Animals that may carry rabies are bats, skunks, raccoons, foxes, or coyotes. These animals may spread rabies even if they have no symptoms. In the U.S., 90% of cases of rabies in humans are caused by bats. Bats have spread rabies without a visible bite mark.
  • Small Wild Animal Bites. Small animals such as mice, rats, moles, or gophers do not carry rabies. Chipmunks, prairie dogs, squirrels and rabbits also do not carry rabies. Sometimes, their bites can get infected.
  • Large Pet Animal Bites. Most bites from pets are from dogs or cats. Bites from other pets such as horses can be handled using this guide. Dogs and cats are free of rabies in most cities. Stray animals are always at risk for rabies until proven otherwise. Cats and dogs that always stay indoors are free of rabies. The main risk in pet bites is wound infection, not rabies. Cat bites become infected more often than dog bites. Cat scratches can get infected just like a bite because cats lick their claws.
  • Small Indoor Pet Animal Bites. Small indoor pets are at no risk for rabies. Examples of these pets are gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, or mice. Tiny puncture wounds from these small animals also don't need to be seen. They carry a small risk for wound infections.
  • Human Bites. Most human bites occur during fights, especially in teenagers. Sometimes a fist is cut when it strikes a tooth. Human bites are more likely to become infected than animal bites. Bites on the hands are at higher risk. Many toddler bites are safe because they don't break the skin.

Animals at Risk for Rabies

  • Bat, skunk, raccoon, fox, or coyote
  • Other large wild animals
  • Pets that have never had rabies shots and spend time outdoors
  • Outdoor animals who are sick or stray
  • Dogs or cats in countries that do not require rabies shots
  • In the US and Canada, bites from city dogs and cats are safe.

Disclaimer

The information contained in these topics is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained in these topics is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment.

  • Not a Substitute - The information and materials in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker should not be used as a substitute for the care and knowledge that your physician can provide to you.
  • Supplement - The information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker are meant to supplement the information that you obtain from your physician. If there is a disagreement between the information presented herein and what your physician has told you -- it is more likely that your physician is correct. He or she has the benefit of knowing your child's medical problems.
  • Limitations - You should recognize that the information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker have the following limitations, in comparison to being examined by your own physician:
    • You can have a conversation with your child's doctor.
    • Your child's doctor can perform a physical examination and any necessary tests.
    • Your child could have an underlying medical problem that requires a physician to detect.
    • If your child is taking medications, they could influence how he experiences various symptoms.

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