It is not uncommon for a child to be bitten or scratched by a family pet – especially cats and dogs.
Most of the time these injuries do not need the attention of a doctor. If the cut, scratch or puncture wound is minor, wash it thoroughly with soap and water. A loose, sterile bandage may be needed.
Your child should see a doctor if:
- The injury is severe enough to require stitches.
- The cut or puncture wound is bleeding excessively.
- There are signs of infection. Signs of infection include severe swelling and pain and drainage of pus.
- Your child was bitten by an animal other than a family pet. If there is a risk of rabies, your child may need a series of shots for protection from this disease.
Rabies always is a concern when an animal bite occurs. Your family pets should be vaccinated against rabies to protect both the pet and your family from harm.
Stray dogs or cats may not have been given a rabies vaccine. Skunks, raccoons, bats, foxes and other wild animals also may be rabies carriers.
If a neighborhood pet or a stray animal bites your child, notify the Humane Society or your local animal control officer. If the animal can be found, it can be observed for signs of rabies.
Protect your child from harm:
- Most children are bitten or scratched by family pets or neighborhood pets. It is best if children handle pets only when an adult is present.
- Your child should never tease or hit a dog, especially a strange dog. Teach your child not to try to take toys, sticks or food from a dog. The dog may bite the child.
- Also, teach your child not to play with stray animals.
For more information, visit the Infectious Disease Program website.