When children see a furry animal, like a dog, their first instinct is often to embrace the animal with a hug or aggressive pet. While the intentions are usually pure, the animal may take this physical touch the wrong way and react. If an animal bites your child, there are several actions you need to take immediately.


How To Treat An Animal Bite

  • Control the bleeding: If the bite is bad enough to break skin, you need to control any bleeding as soon as possible. Use a clean washcloth or towel to gently apply pressure to the wound until the bleeding subsides. If the bite is severe enough, you may need to elevate the injured area.
  • Clean the bite: As soon as the bleeding has stopped, clean the site of the injury with soap and water. If possible, hold the affected area under running water for a bit to rinse the bacteria away.
  • Cover the area: After drying and gently placing antibiotic ointment on the dog bite, cover the area with a fresh bandage to keep infection from occurring.


What To Do After Your Child Gets Bit

If you can determine the owner of the animal, it is important to find out whether the dog is up-to-date on shots and other vetting. If you are able to locate the animal’s owner, be sure to find out the exact date of the animal’s last rabies vaccination. You should also ask the owner if the animal has displayed any unusual behavior recently.


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Should You Seek Medical Care After An Animal Bite?

If your child’s bite breaks skin, you should seek a doctor immediately. Typically a bite of this nature will require antibiotic therapy to prevent infection.

If you do not know the animal that bit your child, you should see a doctor immediately as a rabies shot may be necessary. It is also important to seek medical care if the wound is very deep or if the bite is on your child’s face.

If you are forced to seek medical care for your child’s bite, you should let the doctor know as much as possible about the incident. Your child’s doctor will want to know the vaccination history of the animal as well as your child’s immunization record.  You should also let the doctor know if your child is allergic to any medications.  

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Teach Your Child How To Treat Animals

Believe it or not, 77% of dog bites come from a dog your kids know and love. The best way to prevent your child getting bit by an animal is to teach him or her how to properly treat animals. Because most bites, especially with children, are a result of improper handing and petting, it’s also a good idea to keep a close eye on young children around animals.


This is especially important if you are introducing a new pet into the family. New animals, especially dogs and cats, may be stressed and anxious in their new environment, causing them to react abnormally to chasing, poking and proding. Prior to bringing your new family member home, talk to your children about how important it is to be calm and gentle with their new pet. If the new pet is a dog, start the introduction by taking him or her on a walk. This can be helpful to get everyone comfortable with each other. For more tips on introducing a new pet into your family, click here.


You should also teach your child to ask before petting or touching someone else’s animal. Because you can’t know if another person’s pet is friendly or nervous around new people, it is best to be cautious when you approach.


Are There Health Risks Of Animal Bites?

The two biggest health risks to be aware of if your child receives an animal bite are rabies and infection. If you are certain the animal that bit your child is up-to-date on the rabies vaccination, there is nothing to worry about. However, if a stray dog, cat or wild animal such as a raccoon, skunk, bat or fox bites your child, the risk of rabies is significantly higher.


If the animal that bit your child was a stray or wild animal with no record of a rabies vaccination, your child’s doctor will likely recommend an anti-rabies treatment.  This treatment includes a combination of human rabies immune globulin (HRIG) and the rabies vaccine.


Infection is a high risk no matter what the type of animal that bites your child. Because both animal bites and scratches contain germs, they are much more susceptible to infection. Signs that your child’s bite has become infected include pain, redness, swelling and warmth around the bite or scratch.


Because tetanus can also be transmitted via animal bite you should be sure that your child is up-to-date on this specific vaccination.


How To Handle A Stray Animal

If a stray animal is responsible for your child’s bite, there are additional steps you should take. Be sure to contact the local health department or animal control as soon as possible. Do not attempt to capture or contain the animal by yourself. Wait for trained professionals who have the proper equipment to catch stray animals.

It is important to note that most animals are not aggressive and will not strike your child unless they are triggered. Because animals do not understand our intentions, they may misinterpret what your child is doing and react negatively.

If your child has suffered a dog bite and is need of medical care, Medical City Children’s Urgent Care is here for you.

With six pediatric urgent care clinics in the DFW area, our kid-friendly physicians provide expert care after hours and on weekends.


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Disclaimer: Patients’ health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions or deciding if medical advice is right for you or your child.