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Urgent Care

Animal Bite Treatment and Recovery in MA & RI

Animal bites occur most often when an animal feels threatened. This is true at home or in the wild. Many animals make great pets, but even a beloved pet can lash out in defense or fear. Whether you’ve received a scratch from Fluffy or Fido or a more exotic animal, Southcoast Health Urgent Care Centers are here to help you.

Most animal bites cause minor injury, but those that break the skin have the highest likelihood of infection.  Sometimes, the wound can look worse than it really is. However, signs of infection include swelling, redness, warmth, or oozing from the punctured area. Bites also cause emotional trauma and scarring, and wild animal bites could leave you exposed to rabies.

For these reasons and many others, if you or a family member is bitten, you should seek out fast and efficient treatment at a Southcoast Health Urgent Care Center in Dartmouth, Fall River, Fairhaven, Seekonk, Lakeville, or Wareham, MA and Middletown, RI.

What Are the Most Common Types of Animals Bites?

Anyone can be bitten by a domesticated or feral animal. A bite can occur on a hiking or camping trip from a wild animal trying to protect itself, or it may happen accidentally in the backyard while you’re playing with your dog.

Most animal bites come from a family pet, followed closely by the following animals:

  • Raccoons
  • Squirrels
  • Rats
  • Ferrets

It is always a good idea to seek medical advice when bitten by any type of animal, due to the diseases they may be carrying.

Risk Factors of Animal Bites

The main risk factor for being bitten by an animal is putting yourself in an unsafe situation. Avoid wild animals, and take caution around those you are not familiar with. Keep watch over younger children outdoors and when they are spending time with your pets.

Treating Minor Animal Bites at Home

If an animal you know bites you, basic first aid is often enough. Follow the steps below immediately after being bitten:

  • Wash the affected area with soap and water
  • Put pressure on it to stop the bleeding, if applicable
  • Apply an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment and protect the area with a sterile bandage
  • If necessary, use over-the-counter pain relievers

When Do Animal Bites Require Immediate Medical Attention?

If any of the following situations occur, seek immediate medical attention at the nearest Southcoast Health Urgent Care Center:

  • The bite is from a wild animal, an animal you don’t know, or a pet whose immunizations are out of date or has been acting strangely
  • A deep puncture wound, torn skin, or significant blood loss, which carry a higher risk of infection
  • Bites on the head, face, neck, hand, foot, or joint
  • Any signs of infection are present
  • The person bitten hasn’t had a recent tetanus shot
  • Please note that Southcoast Health Urgent Care Centers do not offer rabies shots.

How Are Animal Bites Diagnosed and Treated?

When you see a doctor for an animal bite, they will assess your risk of infection, look for any other injuries, and try to minimize scarring. Examinations for an animal bite may include:

  • Inspection. Wounds are examined for debris. The doctor may use a numbing agent before conducting the exam.
  • X-Rays. Your doctor may order X-rays if they feel there is a danger of bone fractures. An X-ray also reveals hidden debris in the wound. Foreign materials like grass and dirt can be easily missed by the naked eye.
  • Irrigation. Your doctor is likely to irrigate the wound to ensure it’s properly cleaned. This reduces the risk of infection. A local anesthetic, if needed, helps minimize the pain.
  • Debridement. Animal bites may result in skin tears that cannot be stitched up. In this case, debridement may be performed to get rid of infected or dead skin and tissue.
  • Closure. Certain types of animal bites may be stitched or sutured.
  • Wound Care. Your doctor could use a variety of treatment options for wound care—it all depends on the circumstances of your injury. Sutured wounds must be kept clean and dry. Wounds that aren’t stitched could require soaking and other treatments.

Antibiotics are sometimes needed to keep infection at bay following animal bites. They are also often prescribed to older adults or those with chronic conditions like diabetes. The following situations usually need antibiotics:

  • Cat bites
  • Debrided wounds
  • Contaminated wounds

The pain from most bite wounds can be treated with over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If your bite is severe, your doctor may prescribe a stronger pain medication for short-term pain relief.

Animal Bite Treatment at Southcoast Health Urgent Care Centers

Although many animal bites heal quickly, proper medical attention is the key to avoiding infection, minimizing scarring, and learning how to stay safe in the future. At Southcoast Health Urgent Care Centers in southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, we treat animal bites with the utmost care. If you or a family member has been bitten by an animal, a visit to Southcoast Health will get you on the path to recovery. To learn more about the services we offer to MA & RI residents, please contact us today.