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Health Library : Common Childhood Injuries and Poisonings

 

Facts About Animal Bites

All 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.

Other animals can transmit rabies and tetanus. High-risk species include raccoons, skunks, foxes, and bats. Rodents such as mice, rats, squirrels, chipmunks, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, and rabbits are at low risk to carry rabies.

The most common type of animal bite is a dog bite. Up to 3 million people receive animal bites each year, and most bites are dog bites. Follow these guidelines to help decrease the chance of your child being bit by an animal:

  • Never leave a young child alone with an animal.
  • Teach your child not to tease or hurt an animal.
  • Teach your child to avoid strange dogs, cats, and other animals.
  • Have your pets licensed and immunized against rabies, and other diseases.
  • Keep your pets in a fenced yard or confined to a leash.

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