To care for a minor animal bite or claw wound, such as one that only breaks the skin, take these steps:
- Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water.
- Apply an antibiotic cream or ointment and cover the bite with a clean bandage.
- The wound is a deep puncture or you're not sure how serious it is.
- The skin is badly torn, crushed or bleeding significantly — first apply pressure with a bandage or clean cloth to stop the bleeding.
- You notice increasing swelling, redness, pain or oozing, which are warning signs of infection.
You have questions about your risk of rabies or about rabies prevention. If the bite was caused by a cat or a dog, try to confirm that the animal's rabies vaccination is up to date. If the bite was caused by a wild animal, seek advice from your doctor about which animals are most likely to carry rabies.
Bats often carry rabies and can infect humans without leaving obvious signs of a bite. This is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people in contact with bats — or even those who are sleeping and awaken to find a bat in the bedroom — seek medical advice about rabies shots, even if they don't think they've been bitten.
- You haven't had a tetanus shot in the past 10 years — or five years if the wound is deep or dirty. You may need a booster shot.
Nov. 17, 2020
- Thompson DA. Animal bite. In: Adult Telephone Protocols Office Version. 4th ed. American Academy of Pediatrics; 2019.
- Bats. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/rabies/exposure/animals/bats.html. Accessed Sept. 29, 2020.
- Baddour LM, et al. Animal bites (dogs, cats, and other animals): Evaluation and management. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Sept. 29, 2020.