Animal Bites

Animal bites are frequent injuries in children.

The most common bites are from cats and dogs. Interestingly, the bites of these animals are less infectious than a human bite.

However, you must watch your child's injury closely for infections.

The area around the animal bite is numbed by the injection of medication so that it can be cleansed thoroughly. Any loose bits of tissue or teeth are removed. Puncture wounds are left open.

Longer lacerations (wounds or tears) may have a few loose stitches placed to keep the edges close to one another but allow drainage of any fluid or infection. Sutures are generally removed five to seven days later in clinic.

All animal bites are treated with antibiotics. It is very important that your child take all of the antibiotic medicine. If your child develops an infection while taking antibiotic medicine by mouth, the child will need to be admitted to the hospital so that he / she can receive antibiotics through an IV.

Some animals can carry rabies. If your child is bit by a wild animal that could be infected with rabies, he or she should receive a series of shots to prevent rabies.

You should not worry about rabies if your child was bitten by a lizard, fish, or any other animal that does not have fur. 

  • Wash the site at least twice a day with antibacterial soap.
  • Apply a small amount of antibiotic ointment.
  • Place a clean dressing on the wounds that are on the hand, arm, leg or body. Facial bites can be left open.

Most bites from animals result in some bruising. Blue or yellow discoloration is normal in the surrounding skin.

Usually there is some swelling which is at its worst at 48 hours and then rapidly returns to normal. If swelling increases after the third day, contact your child's doctor.

  • There is redness or streaking, or if there is drainage of yellow, tan, green or foul-smelling fluid
  • Your child has a fever greater than 101°F (38.3°C) orally

Your child will be examined to determine whether there is an infection present.

All wounds heal with a scar. The important part about healing animal bite wounds is to prevent infection, which would make the wound even worse. To improve the scarring, massage and sun protection are essential.

A scar has not settled down completely until all the pinkness has turned to normal skin color. This process can take as long as 18 months.

Using a thick moisturizer, rub the wound for five to 10 minutes twice daily. You must apply enough pressure to change the color of the cut from pink to pale.

Benefits from massage last until all the pink is gone from the wound.


Wait for three weeks after the bite is repaired before massaging.

Any fresh scar (one that is still pink) can get sunburned, even on dark-skinned people. Once a scar gets burned or tanned, it will not fade back to its normal color, and a dark spot will always be present.

It is best to avoid sun on a fresh wound. Clothing with long sleeves, full-length pants, and hats provide good sun protection. If clothing does not cover the wound, it should be covered with sunblock.

Waterproof zinc and titanium oxide-based sunblock work the best, but any sunblock with SPF of 15 or greater will work if applied often.

Last Updated 11/2013