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Facts About Animal Bites and Scratches

Most animal bites require treatment based on the type and severity of the wound. Whether the bite is from a family pet or an animal in the wild, scratches and bites can become infected and cause scarring. Animals can also carry diseases that can be transmitted through a bite. Bites that break the skin and bites of the scalp, face, hand, wrist, or foot are more likely to become infected. Cat scratches, even from a kitten, can carry "cat scratch disease," a bacterial infection.

Animals can transmit rabies and tetanus. Rodents, such as mice, rats, squirrels, chipmunks, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, and rabbits, are at low risk of carrying rabies, but they may transmit other diseases.

The most common type of animal bite is a dog bite. But cat bites are much more likely to become infected than dog bites. This is because a cat's teeth can cause deep puncture wounds.

Follow these guidelines to help decrease the chance of your child being bitten or scratched by an animal:

  • Never leave a young child alone with an animal.

  • Teach your child not to tease or hurt animals or bother them when they are eating or sleeping.

  • Teach your child to stay away from strange dogs, cats, and other animals.

  • Teach your child not to feed wild animals.

  • Have your pets licensed and vaccinated against rabies and other diseases.

  • Keep your pets in a fenced yard or secured to a leash.

Online Medical Reviewer: Eric Perez MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Jessica Gotwals RN BSN MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Paula Goode RN BSN MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 4/1/2022
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