Animal Bites Treatment

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on January 17, 2020

Call 911 if:

  • The person has been seriously wounded.
  • Bleeding can't be stopped after 10 minutes of firm and steady pressure.
  • Bleeding is severe.
  • Blood spurts from the wound.

1. Stop Bleeding

  • Apply direct pressure until bleeding stops.

2. Clean and Protect

For a wound or superficial scratch from an animal bite:

  • Gently clean with soap and warm water. Rinse for several minutes after cleaning.
  • Apply antibiotic cream to reduce risk of infection, and cover with a sterile bandage.

3. Get Help

  • Get medical help immediately for any animal bite that is more than a superficial scratch or if the animal was a wild animal or stray, regardless of the severity of the injury.
  • If the animal's owner is available, find out if the animal's rabies shots are up-to-date. Give this information to your healthcare provider.
  • If the animal was a stray or wild animal, call the local health department or animal control immediately.

4. Follow Up

  • The healthcare provider will make sure the wound is thoroughly clean and may prescribe antibiotics.
  • The healthcare provider may numb the wound and look for any deeper damage.
  • If there is any risk of rabies infection, the health care provider will recommend anti-rabies treatment.
  • The person may require stitches, depending on how big the wound is and where it is located.
  • The person may also require a tetanus shot or booster.
  • The health care provider may recommend acetaminophen (Panadol, Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Nuprin) for pain.
WebMD Medical Reference



University of Maryland Medical Center: "First Aid: Animal Bites and Rabies." "Animal Bites." "Cat and Dog Bites."

Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine: "What You Should Know About Animal Bites."

American Society for Surgery of the Hand: "Animal Bites."

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