Land Animal Bite

Reviewed on 10/18/2021

Facts on Animal Bites

Dog and cat
Land animal bites can occur on any wilderness trip, or even in a backyard with domesticated pets or wild animals.

A person attacked by a land animal should attempt to identify the type of animal, the time of the injury, and the nature of the attack.

  • Animal bites can occur on any dive or wilderness trip. They may also occur in a backyard with domesticated pets or wild animals.
  • Unprovoked animal bites are particularly dangerous. The possibility of a cat, dog, or wild animal having rabies is high, especially in less-developed countries.
  • Bites from land animals often lead to severe infections. Puncture wounds are very dangerous because they inject bacteria deep into the tissues.
  • Bites to the hand, wrist, foot or joint are very dangerous and require immediate medical attention.
  • Infection is a major concern with bites because a local wound infection may develop in as little as 24 hours.

Land Animal Bite Symptoms

Symptoms of local wound infection may include

  • warmth,
  • pus,
  • red streaks,
  • a foul odor,
  • lymph node swelling,
  • pain with joint movement, and
  • fever.

Land Animal Bite Treatment

  • All bite wounds require immediate, thorough cleansing with plenty of fresh tap water. Gently scrub the wound with soap and water to remove foreign material.
  • At the doctor's office or a hospital, a syringe would be used to provide high-pressure irrigation. Dead tissue is removed from the wound with sterile scissors or a scalpel. After cleansing, a topical bacitracin ointment should be applied three times per day.
  • Wounded extremities should be immobilized and elevated.
  • Puncture wounds and bites are usually not sutured (stitched) unless they involve the face.
  • Oral antibiotics are usually recommended to prevent infection. If an infection develops, continue antibiotics for at least five days after all signs of infection have cleared. Check for drug allergy prior to starting any antibiotic. Some antibiotics can cause increased sensitivity to the sun, so sunscreen should be used (at least SPF 15).
  • Pain may be relieved with 1-2 tablets of acetaminophen 325-500 mg (Tylenol) pain relievers every four hours and/or 1-2 tablets of ibuprofen 200 mg (Motrin, Advil) every six to eight hours.

When to Seek Medical Care

  • All land animal bite wounds require medical attention.
  • A doctor should be consulted about treatment, wound care, and need for rabies prophylaxis or antibiotics.
Reviewed on 10/18/2021
Medically reviewed by John A. Daller, MD; American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care


MescapeReference. Animal Bites.