Wounds from animals: Dog bites & Cat scratches – Learn about the different health complications that can occur from dog bites, cat scratches and wounds inflicted by other domestic and wild animals.

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Domestic household animals such as dogs and cats are typically well behaved, therefore are usually completely safe to be around. However there can be instances where your pets can become agitated, aggressive, or by complete accident, cause some form of bodily harm.

Most common cases of this are dog bites or cat scratches. You could also be in a scenario where you receive a wound from a wild animal. Read along to find out what steps you can take to prevent yourself from harm or treat your bite or scratch wounds safely.


What happens when a dog bites you?

A dog bite will vary in pain depending on the size and strength of the dog, however most dogs can bite through the skin tissue and cause considerable amounts of bleeding. If a dog bite is not cared for and treated as soon as the incident happens, it could lead to severely dangerous infection and further health complications will follow.

Why would a dog bite you?

Dogs are typically trained not to bite but can easily be provoked if they feel threatened.
Dogs, puppies, cats and other domestic or wild animals can bite due to a number of varying reasons:

  • Provoking the dog or puppy is one of the most common reasons either yours or someone else's pets will try and bite you.
  • Provoking something the dog is protecting, such as a puppy.
  • The dog is startled by something completely unrelated but you are close enough to be harmed in their threatened state.
  • The dog is untrained or is still a young and aggressive puppy.

Steps for dog bite treatment

Dog bites have a significantly higher chance of becoming infected in comparison to a wound inflicted through accidental causes. Dog bite wounds should be disinfected and covered as soon as possible. The steps to best treat a dog bite are:
  1. Clean the wound thoroughly using disinfectant. 
  2. Reduce and prevent further bleeding by wiping the wound along with any excess blood surrounding it.
  3. Apply Elastoplast Wound Healing Ointment.
  4. Wrap the wound in an Elastoplast wound dressing.
  5. Keep the wound covered and see your healthcare professional as soon as possible.
  6. Watch for signs of wound infection, including redness, swelling, increased pain and fever.

If you for any reason feel like a wound is infected, please seek the help of a medical healthcare professional.

How to avoid a dog bite

Dog bites can be very dangerous and result in serious injury however they can be avoided.
It is more common than not that an animal is provoked into biting or attacking a person. Dog bites can easily be avoided in most scenarios, some examples of this are:
  • Young children should never be left unsupervised with a dog.
  • Avoid approaching animals with sudden movements.
  • You should avoid being very loud around them or disturb animals in their sleep.
  • You should avoid interacting with unfamiliar animals, dogs should sniff you and be attracted to your scent before you stroke or pet them.
  • Distance should be kept from wild animals at all times as they are not domesticated and could react suddenly at any moment. They also could be carrying unknown diseases that can be transmitted through bites, such as rabies and tetanus.

What to do when a cat scratches me?

Scratches are typically inflicted by cats and in most cases they are completely accidental. It could happen when playing with the cat and you’ve accidentally come into contact with their claws in quick motion. Sometimes cat scratches can be very deliberate as a product of their agitation or stress towards someone so react with a scratch as a form of self defence.

What happens when a cat scratches you?

In most cases, an animal scratch only affects the topmost layers of skin. However in some instances, a cat can scratch and lead the wound to swell and become reddened which can lead to severe itchiness while your body’s immune system reacts to the scratch. When a scratch cuts deeper than the outermost layer it may cause some bleeding leading to scabs if not treated properly as soon as possible. Deeper cat scratches can also lead to infections and in some cases develop into Cat Scratch Disease.

How would you treat a scratch?

Scratches from animals need to be treated as soon as possible to avoid infection and further health complications, the optimal way to treat your scratch wound is to:
  • Rinse the the wound and disinfect it as soon as possible using the Elastoplast wound spray and make.
  • Apply Elastoplast Wound Healing Ointment.
  • Apply the Elastoplast Fast Wound Healing Plaster to protect the wound.
  • Make sure to see a healthcare professional if any further symptoms such as infection of Cat Scratch Disease begin to show.

How to prevent scratches from cats

Cats often scratch by complete accident when playing with their owner or just by making brief contact with someone and their sharp claws. These instances can be prevented by:

  • Regularly trimming their claws.
  • Diverting attention and letting the cat play with toys such as a scratch post.
  • Ensure that children are not left unsupervised around cats.
  • Make yourself aware of changes in cat behaviour to spot the warning signs of potential aggression.

How to tell if my dog bite or cat scratch is infected?

Leaving a wound open and uncleaned  will often lead to infection. When the wound is from an animal there is greater chance that bacteria is already within the wound, meaning the wound can become infected at a faster rate. To avoid this you should clean and cover your wound instantly.
Protect from infection using Elastoplast products

Symptoms to look for when assessing if your wound is infected are:

  • You may see redness and painful swelling surrounding the wound.
  • The wound itself becomes warm and may even leak a liquid like puss.
  • Bites or scratches from animals exponentially increase the chance of infection so need to be cleaned and covered as soon as possible.
  • A high temperature fever is also a common sign of infection.

  • Dog bites can carry orally transmittable diseases such as rabies or tetanus which can result in serious health adversities.
  • Cat scratches can transmit CSD (Cat scratch disease) which can lead to further infection and illness. Read more on Cat scratch disease.

If you are seeing symptoms of CSD or general infection it would be advised to seek help from a healthcare professional as soon as possible. 
Read here for more information on how to tell if a cut is infected.

Other scenarios where you could be bitten or scratched:

It is important to also be very careful in the presence of animals or pets that are not domesticated yet are still common and close by in everyday activities. Common examples of wild animals getting close enough to bite could be foxes or squirrels. They could appear and attack due to agitation when you are out in the garden

They are also known to appear frequently in campsites so it is important to keep aware and away from them before they get a chance to bite, scratch or inflict any type of wound on you. 

In the scenario where a wild animal inflicts a wound it is important to clean, disinfect and cover the wound and see a doctor immediately to reduce the risk of serious infection or unknown diseases that the animals could be carrying.

Always see a doctor if the wound is deep, bleeds heavily or shows signs of infection like reddening, swelling or warmth.

Please note that, although these were compiled with great care, the tips and advice given on this website by no means substitute medical advice and treatment. If you have or suspect a health problem, consult a doctor and follow medical advice regardless of what you have learned on this website.

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