Survival Medicine – Treating an Animal Bite

by Dr. Bones and Nurse Amy, Ready Nutrition

This Summer, the coast of the Carolinas has seen more than its share of shark attacks. Although shark attacks are rare, most people have run afoul of some critter at one point or another. In the United States, there are millions of animal bites every year resulting in hundreds of thousands of ER visits. In this article, we’ll talk about the furry kind, but here are my articles on other types of bites:




Wild animals will bite when threatened, ill, or to protect their territory and offspring. Most, however, avoid humans if at all possible. In the grand majority of cases, pets like cats, dogs, and rodents are the perpetrators. Most animal bites affect the hands (in adults) and the face, head, and neck (in children).

Dog bites are responsible for 1000 emergency care visits every day in the U.S.. According to a 1994 study, dog bites are:

• 6.2 times more likely to be incurred by male dogs.
• 2.6 times more likely by dogs that haven’t been neutered.
• 2.8 times more likely if the dog is chained or otherwise restrained.
• More commonly seen in children 14 years and younger than any other age group. Boys are much more likely to be the victims.

Although more common, bog bites are usually more superficial than cat bites; A dog’s teeth are relatively dull compared to felines’. Despite this, their jaws are powerful and can inflict crush injuries to soft tissues.

Cats’ teeth are thin and sharp, and puncture wounds tend to be deeper. Any bite can lead to infection if ignored, but cat bites inject bacteria into deeper tissues and become contaminated more often. Rabies and Tetanus are just some of the infections that can be passed through a bite wound.


Whenever a person has been bitten, there are several important actions that should be taken:

  1. Control bleeding with direct pressure using gloves and a bandage or other barrier.
  2. Clean the wound thoroughly with soap and water. Flushing the wound aggressively with a 60-100 cc irrigation syringe filled with clean water will help remove embedded dirt and bacteria-containing saliva.irrigation1
  3. Use an antiseptic to decrease the chance of infection. Betadine (2% povidone-iodine solution) or Benzalkonium Chloride (BZK) are good choices.

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