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Animal Bites (cont.)

What Are the Symptoms of an Animal Bite?

Although most bites need to be checked by a doctor, if the person who was bitten does not seek immediate attention after the bite has occurred, watch closely for signs and symptoms of infection. These symptoms may signal there is infection or debris still in the wound (such as teeth, clothes, or dirt):

  • Redness at or around the bite site
  • Swelling
  • Pus (thick) drainage from the wound
  • Increasing pain
  • Localized warmth at the bite site
  • Red streaks leading away from the site of the bite
  • Fever

When Should I Call the Doctor About an Animal Bite?

Most animal bites should be evaluated in a doctor's office, at a walk-in clinic, or in a hospital's emergency department for these reasons:

  • The risk of infection
  • Broken or embedded teeth (cats) or other foreign material in the wound (which will cause an infection)
  • Possible underlying nerve and blood vessel damage
  • Risk of tetanus if the person's immunizations are not up to date
  • The consideration of risk of rabies, depending on the animal and circumstances of the bite

These types of bites pose the highest risk of infection and therefore require prompt evaluation:

  • Dog bites because of the crushing mechanism of the bite
  • Cat bites because of the puncture mechanism of the bite
  • Wild animal bites (from raccoons, for example) and dog or cat bites (pets may have themselves been bitten by stray animals) because of the risk of contracting rabies

Certain bite wounds require immediate attention:

  • Bite caused by a wild animal or a stray dog or cat
  • Possibility of teeth, dirt, or other matter in the wound
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Weakness or numbness of the area or another area away from the bite
  • Any other symptoms or concern that the person bitten may have regarding a bite wound
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/10/2016
Medical Author:

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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Animal Bites:

Animal Bites - Type and Treatment

What kind of animal bit you, and what was the treatment?


Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Animal Bites »

Because many animal bites are never reported, determining the exact incidence of animal bite wounds in the United States, let alone the world, is difficult.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


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