What to Do If You Have an Animal Bite?

Dec 01, 2023

What to Do If You Have an Animal Bite?

What to Do If You Have an Animal Bite?

Animal bites, whether from domestic pets or wild creatures, are traumatic. While some bites may only leave a minor wound, others can cause traumatic injuries.

Severe bites can cause nerve damage, tendon damage, and even fractures on top of the lacerations. Our board-certified surgeons here at Sequoia Institute for Surgical Services in Porterville, Reedley, and Visalia, California, are experts at treating traumatic injuries. Whether you need care for a broken bone, nerve or tendon damage, or wound care, our surgeons provide everything you need. 

In the meantime, here are the steps you should take if an animal bites you or someone you know.

Steps to take immediately

Animal bites can happen suddenly, so it’s a good idea to have a basic understanding of first aid for animal bites. Immediately after an animal bite:

Wash the wound thoroughly

Animal bites expose you to germs, and because teeth can cause deep puncture wounds, animal bites pose a high risk of infection, so the most important thing you can do after a bite is clean the wound. Use mild soap and warm water to gently wash the affected area for at least five minutes to remove bacteria and debris from the bite.

Slow the bleeding with a clean cloth

If the wound is deep and continues to bleed, try to slow the bleeding with a clean cloth while applying pressure. If the wound bleeds profusely and you can’t slow or stop it, seek emergency medical care immediately. 

Bandage the wound

After cleaning and stopping the bleeding, apply an over-the-counter topical antibacterial ointment to reduce the risk of infection (we may still prescribe oral antibiotics when we see you). 

Then, use a clean, sterile dressing or bandage to cover the wound and keep it protected. Change the dressing regularly to prevent infection.

Seek medical care

Regardless of the severity of the animal bite, it’s important to seek medical attention for all animal bites. Even minor bites can lead to infection or complications if not properly treated. You can seek several different types of professional care for animal bites.

Emergency wound care

While you can perform first aid for an animal bite at home, seeking emergency wound care is still advisable. A health care professional in an urgent care or emergency department setting can assess your wound, recommend necessary vaccinations, remove debris (or even residual animal teeth from the wound), and prescribe antibiotics if needed. 

Report the bite

Reporting the bite to local authorities is important if rabies exposure is a concern. You may call the local police or the Tulare County Health & Human Services Agency.


You may need a tetanus shot depending on the nature of the bite and your immunization history. Tetanus is a bacterial infection that can enter the body through puncture wounds, like those caused by animal bites. 

In addition to a tetanus shot, you may require the rabies postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) treatment if exposed to rabies. If the animal that bit you is wild, unvaccinated, or acting strangely, there is a risk of rabies transmission. 

Emotional and mental health support

Remember that an animal bite can be a traumatic experience, especially for children. Seek emotional support from friends, family, or a mental health professional if you or your child feel anxious, stressed, or fearful about the incident.

Surgical repair

According to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, the hands and fingers are the most frequently bitten body parts. If you have damaged bones, nerves, or tendons in your hands, trust our experienced hand surgeons 一 Dr. Jonathan Liu and Dr. Huey Yuan Tien 一 at Sequoia Institute for Surgical Services to provide the surgical care you need.  

To learn more about how we can help you recover from an animal bite, call the location of your choice. You can also book your appointment online easily.