Dr. Puckett explains what to do if bitten by an animal

Complete Family Medicine

1611 S. Baltimore

Kirksville, Mo. 63501

(660) 665-7575

What types of animal bites are most common?


Domestic animals are certainly the most common.

â?? Often we see joggers or walkers who encounter a dog and gets bit

â?? Usually a cat bite occurs when two cats or other animals are fighting and we, the

humans, try to intervene

â?? Wild animal bites are more rare, but they usually involve us trying to catch a wild animal,

or worse, terrorizing a wild animal. There is no stick long enough to keep an upset

racoon from reaching you!

So if we get bit by an animal, what should we do?


First, you need to leave the area, prevent any further injury

â?? Next, wash the wound as soon as possible with large amounts of soap and water. Just

regular soap and water, avoid the antibacterial


â?? Control the bleeding by applying direct pressure to the wound

â?? If the cuts are large, or if any fingers, toes etc won't work as normal then you may have

injured a tendon, you need to seek medical attention. If the injury is very severe and limb

threatening, you should seek care at an ER. If the wound is less severe, this can often

be repaired in the Urgent Care or your regular doctor's office

So if we get bit, do we need to do anything else, any shots?


All people who encounter an animal bite should insure their tetanus shot is up to date,

having had your last one within 5 years. If not you will need to update this simple,

inexpensive shot.

â?? Depending on the severity of the wound, antibiotics might be warranted. I recommend

anyone with a bite that breaks the skin to seek medical attention

â?? Also depending on the animal, you may need to consider rabies prevention

Tell us a little more about Rabies prevention, who needs it, and what does it entail?


Over 90 percent of all rabid animals last year were wild animals

â?? If the animal can be documented to be current on shots, then no treatment may be


â?? If you are uncertain of the animals vaccination status, you can either opt for treatment,

opt to observe the animal, and seek treatment if the animal shows any signs of rabies, or

if the animal is missing or wild, we would recommend treatment

â?? Treatment involves two things. Rabies Immunoglobulin

I've heard rabies is really rare the the shots are really expensive. What's your thoughts?


Rabies is rare in Missouri. Around 40 animals each year are proven to have rabies in the

state of Missouri. In 2008 a person died of rabies from a bat bite. Prior to this, Missouri

hadn't seen a death since 1959. Nonetheless, it is possible, and if you get it you will

invariably die.

â?? The treatment is expensive, thousands of dollars per patient. If a person has not been

vaccinated for rabies previously, then they would need both the human rabies

Immunoglobulin and a series of 4 or 5 vaccines.

â?? Some high risk people get the vaccine, and many international travelers will get it, but

again, its expense vastly prohibits its general use

â?? The vaccine does not work after symptoms start to present

So what would you recommend that we can do to prevent animal bites?

â?? Leave any animal you are not well associated with alone


If you have animals, keep them properly restrained


Never get in the middle of two fighting animals


Never help a sick or injured animal, it may not realize your good intentions


Keep all domestic animals up to date on shots


Never get near an animal while it is eating


Report any unusual behavior to animal control