How should I take care of a bite from a cat or a dog?
Whether from a family pet or a neighborhood stray, cat and dog bites are common.Here are some things you should do to take care of a wound caused by a cat or dog bite:
- If necessary, call your doctor
- Wash the wound gently with soap and water.
- Apply pressure with a clean towel to the injured area to stop any bleeding.
- Apply a sterile bandage to the wound.
- Keep the injury elevated above the level of the heart to slow swelling and prevent infection.
- If necessary, report the incident to the proper authority in your community (for example, the animal control office or the police).
- Apply antibiotic ointment to the area 2 times every day until it heals.
Probably not. Rabies is uncommon in dogs and cats in the United States. (It is more common in wild animals like skunks, raccoons, bats and coyotes.) If a dog or cat that bit you appeared to be healthy at the time of the bite, it's unlikely that the animal had rabies. However, it's a good idea to take some precautions if you're bitten by a dog or cat.
If you know the owner of the dog or cat that bit you, ask for the pet's vaccination record (record of shots). An animal that appears healthy and has been vaccinated may still be quarantined (kept away from people and other animals) for 10 days to make sure it doesn't start showing signs of rabies. If the animal gets sick during the 10-day period, a veterinarian will test it for rabies. If the animal does have rabies, you will need to get a series of rabies shots (see below).
If the animal is a stray or you can't find the owner of the dog or cat that bit you, call the animal control agency or health department in your area. They will try to find the animal so it can be tested for rabies.
If the animal control agency or health department can't find the animal that bit you, if the animal shows signs of rabies after the bite or if a test shows that the animal has rabies, your doctor will probably want you to get a series of rabies shots (also called post-exposure prophylaxis). You need to get the first shot as soon as possible after the bite occurs. After you receive the first shot, your doctor will give you 6 more shots over a 28-day period.