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You’re walking down the street in your neighborhood, minding your own business, as you see a dog approaching. You don’t see a collar, but he looks like he could be your neighbor’s dog. You approach the wandering pooch, hoping to return the dog safely to your neighbor. It’s his growl that first alarms you, and by the time you realize he isn’t not the dog, he’s got his teeth around your wrist!
We’ve been seeing a lot of patients at our clinic with animal bites. While it seems like a minor abrasion, these are wounds that should be taken seriously.
Who are the offenders?
Household pets are the most common offenders of animal bites. Wild animals should be left alone, as they could lash out if you are invading their territory or they feel threatened.
Among household pets, dogs are more likely to bite over cats. Cat bites, however, are most likely to cause infection. Cats teeth cause deep puncture wounds that cannot be cleaned by just soap and water.
Bites from non-immunized domestic animals and wild animals carry the risk of rabies and other diseases.
What to do if you’ve been bitten:
I suggest seeing a physician immediately for any of the following:
- A deep puncture wound that is badly torn and bleeding
- Signs of infection (ex: swelling, redness, increased pain or oozing)
- Suspicion that the animal might possibly carry rabies
An animal bite is also more likely to become infected in those who have a weakened immune system due to medicines or disease, diabetes, or peripheral artery disease.
Keep in mind that Westbank Urgent Care offers several services that can help you after your animal bite:
- Tetanus shots
- Blood tests
- X-Rays to check for fractures or objects inside the wound
- Antibiotic prescriptions — especially if you were bitten on your hands or fingers or you were bitten by a cat.
Please note that if you do come in to our clinic for animal bite treatment, you will also need to callAnimal Control as well as your local police.
How to Prevent an Animal Bite:
This all seems nightmarish, but animal bites are completely preventable! The Center for Disease Control offers the following advice on animal bite prevention:
- Spay/neuter your dog (this often reduces aggressive tendencies).
- Never leave infants or young children alone with a dog.
- Don’t play aggressive games with your dog (e.g., wrestling).
- Properly socialize and train any dog entering your household. Teach the dog submissive behaviors (e.g., rolling over to expose the abdomen and giving up food without growling).
- Immediately seek professional advice (e.g., from veterinarians, animal behaviorists, or responsible trainers) if the dog develops aggressive or undesirable behaviors.
Westbank Urgent Care doesn’t want you to feel “ruff”! With these tips and information, I hope that you can appreciate your furry friends.
Written by Dr. Douglas Mehaffie