Dog and Cat Bites - When to seek medical advice

Authored by Dr Mary Harding, 04 Jul 2017

Patient is a certified member of
The Information Standard

Reviewed by:
Prof Cathy Jackson, 04 Jul 2017

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.

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

Further reading and references

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