Symptoms and Signs of Marine Animal Bite

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 10/8/2021

Doctor's Notes on Marine Animal Bite

The signs and symptoms of marine animal bites depend on the fish or animal that bites. Consequently, anyone bitten should try to identify the type of fish or animal, time of injury, and circumstances of the attack. Signs and symptoms of bites are cuts, abrasions, lacerations, and puncture wounds. Some bites include significant tissue loss (shark bite) and may be life-threatening. Within 24 hours, some bites become infected and may show

  • warmth,
  • pus production,
  • red streaks,
  • lymph node swelling,
  • fever, and
  • pain with joint movements.

Most bites should be seen by a medical caregiver.

The cause of a fish or marine animal's bite may be a defense response if threatened or agitated, self-preservation (hooked or speared), and mistaking a human for its normal prey.

What Is the Treatment for Marine Animal Bites?

The treatments for marine animal bites usually depends on identifying the type of fish or animal that bit the person. The types of bites vary and so do the treatments. However, almost all bites need to be seen by a medical caregiver, and patients may need a tetanus shot. Some mild abrasions may only need a topical antibiotic and a bandage while serious bites may need an oral antibiotic. Severe bites showing infection symptoms and signs may require IV antibiotics and evaluation by a surgeon. Large sharks and killer whales, for example, can cause deep organ damage, tissue loss, and death. Have someone call 911 and if safely possible, remove the patient from the water quickly. Stop significant bleeding with direct pressure. A trauma surgeon should be consulted immediately.


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