Animal Bites

An overview

Animal bites may happen to anyone. It may happen while you are camping or hiking and you come across a wild animal that bites you as a form of self-defense. Or perhaps, you get accidentally bitten by a neighbor’s dog during a friendly game of catch.

A lot of animals can inflict bites on both children and adults alike. Most animal bites come from family pet. However, bites can be gotten from the following animals too:

  • Ferrets
  • Raccoons
  • Squirrels and
  • Rats

Animal bite
Photo Credit: Healthline

The symptoms of an animal bite

All animal bites should be examined by your doctor. It may not always be possible to get immediate attention but you should get the bite examined by your physician as soon as you can. Once you have received a bite, it is important to check for signs and symptoms of infection.

Infection on the wound or presence of debris in your wound are indicated by the following symptoms:

  • Localized redness around the wound
  • Red streaks around the bite region
  • Pus
  • Fever
  • Warmth around the bite region
  • Pain
  • Swelling

Reasons why animals bite

Animal bites can take place when an animal is provoked. For instance, you can provoke a dig by taking away its food while it is eating. Animal bites can also happen if you tease your pet. In many cases though, animal bites are unprovoked. Unprovoked bites can occur in the backyard. At times, a squirrel or raccoon may attack someone for no obvious reason. If this happens, then the animal may likely be ill.

Medical care for animal bites is critical. Why?

If you have been bitten by an animal, it is imperative that you consult your physician as soon as you can. There are many reasons for this. You may be at risk of getting:

  • An infection such as rabies and bacterial infections
  • Foreign objects may lodge in the wound
  • Broken animal teeth embedded in your wound
  • Damage to blood vessels and nerve fibers.

The greatest risk of infection are gotten from bites by:

  • Cats
  • Dogs
  • Wild animals

Diagnosis and treatment for animal bites

You will be examined by your physician for risk of infection. He or she will also check for additional injuries, and make attempts to reduce scarring. The following are involved in examinations following animal bite:

Inspection: Wounds are examined thoroughly for debris. A numbing agent may be used to treat your wound before your doctor examines it.

X-rays: Your physician may order X-rays to check for fractures in the bone. Also, with an X-ray, he or she will be able to determine whether or not there is a debris in the wound. Some types of foreign material such as grass and dirt are easy to overlook.

Irrigation: The wound will be irrigated by your physician. The purpose of this is to clean it properly. This will help prevent infection. Irrigation may not always prevent infection, but it drastically reduces the risk. A local anesthetic may be used to reduce pain intensity.

Debridement: Animal bites can cause tears in the skin. These tears in some cases cannot be repaired. A procedure known as debridement may be carried out to remove infected or dead tissue and skin that cannot be repaired. Debridement may be painful at times. Hence, one may need a local anesthetic for this purpose.

Closure: Stitches are usually not used to close puncture wounds. But some wounds must be stitched or sutured, immediately after the bite.

Wound care: Different methods of wound care may be recommended for your injury. The type of care recommended depends on the injury sustained.  Sutured wounds should be kept clean and dry. Showering may be done, but the injury should be dried softly to prevent damage to the sutures. Wounds that are not sutured may require daily soaking or other treatments.

Infections may be prevented by prescribing antibiotics. The following types of bites usually warrant antibiotics:

  • Wounds that require debriding
  • Cat bites
  • Heavily contaminated wounds

Members of the geriatric population or people with chronic medical conditions are usually prescribed antibiotics. Most bite wounds can be treated with OTC pain medications, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen. If the bite is severe, then the physician may prescribe more potent pain medication for short-term relief.

The long-term outlook for animal bites

Animal bites heal quickly. No serious complications accompany animal bites unless the bite is very severe. However, it results in scarring.

How do I prevent animal bites?

Reducing the risk of animal bites is quite easy. This can be done by using common sense and remembering the following:

  • Do not make contacts with unknown animals
  • Never attempt to catch or feed wild animals such as rats, raccoons or squirrels.
  • Do not disturb animals that are known for caring for their babies
  • Do not play aggressively with animals. A family dog for instance can bite you accidentally during a friendly game of tug-of-war.
  • Do not stick your fingers into animal cages

Most bites can be prevented easily unless the animal is sick, or the bite is completely unprovoked.