Skip to content

    First Aid for Deeper Animal or Human Bites

    If a bite wound is bleeding and the skin is torn or deeply punctured:

    • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after treating the wound.
    • Inspect the wound and irrigate with water to remove any dirt or lose debris.
    • Use a clean cloth, towel, or sterile bandage to apply direct pressure to the injury until the bleeding stops. Elevate the area while you apply pressure.
    • See a doctor right away. If you can't stop the bleeding after 10 minutes of pressure, call 911.

    When to See a Doctor for a Bite

    In some cases, a person who has been bitten by a human or animal may need a tetanus or rabies shot, antibiotics to prevent infection, X-rays for a crush injury, or immediate treatment at a hospital. Get medical attention if:

    • The bite is from a cat.
    • A dog bite is to the hand or foot.
    • The bite is from someone known to be hepatitis or HIV positive.
    • A bite is deep, large, or caused a laceration of the skin that might need stitches.
    • You suspect a broken bone or other possible internal injury, or a child has been bitten on the head.
    • There are signs of infection -- redness, pus, or worsening pain or swelling.
    • You haven't had a tetanus shot for more than 10 years or you're not sure when your last tetanus shot was. If it's been more than five years since your last tetanus shot, the doctor may recommend a booster.
    • You have diabetes, cancer, liver or lung disease, AIDS, or a weakened immune system.

    When to Get Emergency Help for Bites

    Call 911 or get emergency help for a bite if:

    • It is from a severe attack.
    • There is heavy bleeding that can't be stopped or cuts to the skin.
    • The injury is on the face, eyes, or scalp.
    • The bite came from a wild animal, a stray pet whose rabies vaccination history is unknown, or a household pet without rabies protection.

    Is Treatment for Rabies Prevention Needed?

    Your risk of rabies is higher if you were bitten by a raccoon, skunk, bat, or fox than if the bite is from a house pet, rabbit, or squirrel.