When should I see a health professional following a cat or dog bite?
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
Further reading and references
Bites - human and animal; NICE CKS, July 2015 (UK access only)
Ellis R, Ellis C; Dog and cat bites. Am Fam Physician. 2014 Aug 1590(4):239-43.
Morgan M, Palmer J; Dog bites. BMJ. 2007 Feb 24334(7590):413-7.
Abrahamian FM, Goldstein EJ; Microbiology of animal bite wound infections. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2011 Apr24(2):231-46. doi: 10.1128/CMR.00041-10.
Animal bites; World Health Organization (WHO) Fact sheet, February 2013
Controlling your dog in public; GOV.UK
Pasteurellosis: characteristics, diagnosis and management; Public Health England, May 2011
Dog bite prevention; American Vetinary Medical Association (AVMA)
Be safe with dogs; Blue Cross
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