Animal Bites


  • When thinking about animal bites, most parents assume that their child is most likely to be bit by a strange or wild animal. 
    • Unfortunately, most bites are inflicted by animals the child knows, including beloved family pets. 
      • Dog bites are the most common, followed by cat bites and scratches. 
    • Injuries caused by animal bites are often mild, but can also cause serious wounds and infections.

Tips for Preventing Dog Bites

  • Never leave your small child alone with a dog!
    • Any dog can bite. 
    • Even your family dog or a dog well known to your child or family that is otherwise well behaved.
  • Teach your child how to interact with dogs safely.
    • Teach your child to ask a dog’s owner for permission before petting their dog.
    • Do not allow your child to play aggressive games with a dog that could lead to bites (i.e. tug-of-war or wrestling).
    • Teach your child to never bother a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies. 
    • Teach your child to move calmly and slowly around dogs.
  • Teach your child that if a dog is behaving in a threatening manner—for example, growling and barking—to remain calm, avoid eye contact with the dog, and back away slowly until the dog loses interest and leaves.
    • If you or your child is knocked over by a dog, curl up in a ball and protect the eyes and face with arms and fists.

Initial Home Care For Animal Bites

  • If your child is bleeding from an animal bite:
    • Apply firm continuous pressure to the area with gauze or a clean towel for 5 minutes or until the bleeding stops.
    • Next, wash the wound gently with soap and warm water.
    • Apply antibiotic ointment and cover with a band-aid. 
  • Request proof of rabies vaccination from the dog's owner.
    • Get the dog owner's name and contact information. 
    • Ask for the name and telephone number of a veterinarian who is familiar with the dog's vaccination records and history.

When to Reach Out to the Modern Pediatrics Team

  • Any animal bite which breaks the skin, no matter how minor it may appear, so that we can: 
    • Check your child’s tetanus vaccine status
    • Discuss infection prevention
    • Discuss rabies concerns
  • You suspect that your child’s wound is becoming infected based on the following signs:
    • Pus or drainage coming from the bite wound
    • The area around the bite becomes more swollen, red, and tender 48 hours after the initial bite
    • Your child starts running a fever (100.4 or higher)
    • Red streaks appear to spread out from the bite
  • The type of bite is more prone to becoming infected:
    • Moderate or severe wounds
    • Puncture wounds, especially over a bone, tendon, or joint
    • Facial bites
    • Hand and foot bites
    • Genital area bites

How to Care for a Bite That Does Not Break the Skin

  • Clean well with soap and water. 
  • You do not need to apply a band-aid when the skin is not broken.
  • Monitor for signs of infection as mentioned above.