Symptoms and Signs of Land Animal Bite

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 10/18/2021

Doctor's Notes on Land Animal Bite

Land animal bites can occur on any wilderness trip, or even in a backyard with domesticated pets or wild animals. Anyone attacked by a land animal should attempt to identify the type of animal, note the time of the injury, and the nature of the attack, because the possibility of a dog, cat, or wild animal having rabies is high, particularly in less-developed countries.

Bites from land animals can frequently lead to severe infections that may develop in as little as 24 hours following the injury. Puncture wounds are especially dangerous because they inject bacteria deep into the tissues. Symptoms of local wound infection from a land animal bite may include

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

What Is the Treatment for Land Animal Bites?

Land animal bites can be very dangerous and are at high risk for serious infections. Anyone who gets bitten by a land animal should seek medical care. Treatment of land animal bites includes:

  • Cleanse the wound thoroughly with soap and freshwater as quickly as possible
  • Use direct pressure to stop bleeding, bandage the wound with clean gauze if available, and immobilize the extremity injured if possible 
  • Medical providers will further clean and access the wound
  • Oral antibiotics are used for contaminated or high-risk wounds to prevent infection 
  • Some animal bites (feral dogs or cats, bats, other land mammals) may require rabies prophylaxis
  • Tetanus vaccine booster may also be recommended
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) may be used to relieve pain

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.