Head of Department of Surgery, JIPMER, Pondicherry
What are the injuries caused by animal bites?
An injury that results when flesh is caught between the teeth of an animal that leads to:
Superficial skin breaks with or without bleeding.
What are the common causes?
Pets are a common cause of bites, with dog bites occurring most frequently. Cat bites are considered more serious due to the higher incidence of infections associated with them. Stray and wild animals such as bats and monkeys also inflict thousands of bites every year. Bites from wild animals are especially dangerous because of the threat of rabies.
What are the first aid measures to be taken?
Calm and reassure the victim. The wound needs to be attended to with clean hands.
If the bite only breaks the skin it has to be treated like a minor wound. Wash the area thoroughly with soap and water, apply an antiseptic and cover it with a clean bandage.
If the bite creates a deep puncture or the skin is badly torn and bleeding apply direct pressure with a clean dry cloth until the bleeding subsides. Keep the injured part elevated to minimize swelling.
What is the treatment?
The doctor observes the bite for signs of infection - increasing skin redness, swelling and pain. He also examines the wound for possible nerve or tendon damage or bone injury. He cleans the wound with an antiseptic solution and removes any damaged tissues. He may prescribe an antibiotic to prevent infection and give the patient an injection to protect against tetanus. In all cases of animal bites a physician should be consulted to see whether in the circumstances of the case one should receive prophylaxis against rabies.
What are the preventive measures?
Children should be taught never to approach strange animals.
Never provoke or tease animals.
Report animal bites to the animal control authorities so that measures can be taken to prevent further such incidents.