Dog and Cat Bites - When to seek medical advice

When should I see a health professional following a cat or dog bite?

For all bites which break the skin, it is sensible to see a health professional for assessment.

In particular, get yourself or your child assessed after a cat or dog bite if:

  • The bleeding is heavy (go to A&E if you can't stop the bleeding).
  • The wound is wide or deep.
  • You have been bitten by a cat.
  • The bite is on the head of a small child (go to A&E).
  • The bite is on your face or ears or hands.
  • There is a possibility the dog or cat has rabies. (This is not a risk if the bite happened in the UK.)
  • You have not had a complete course of tetanus immunisation, or if your booster is due.
  • The skin around the bite has become red or hot, or if the wound is oozing.
  • You develop a high temperature (fever) after a bite.
  • Your immune system is not working properly (for example, due to medication, chemotherapy or AIDS).
  • You have an artificial heart valve or a replaced joint.

When should I go to an accident and emergency department with a cat or dog bite?

In some situations you may need specialist or urgent treatment and should go directly to your nearest A&E. For example, if:

  • The bleeding from the wound does not stop.
  • The bite is on the head of a child.
  • The bite is more than skin-deep - for example, if you can see bone or tendon in the wound
  • There is a "foreign body" in the wound - for example, a part of the animal's tooth

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Author:
Dr Mary Harding
Peer Reviewer:
Prof Cathy Jackson
Document ID:
4380 (v42)
Last Checked:
04 July 2017
Next Review:
03 July 2020

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.