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What should you do after being bitten by a cat or dog?

If you're bitten by a dog or cat, the way you treat the wound may affect how well it heals. Any time an animal's bite or scratch breaks the skin, it's important to have the wound seen by a medical professional. Even young puppy or kitten bites can become infected, especially those around joints or tendons.

What should you do when you're bitten?

When the injury first occurs, it's wise to wash it out as much as possible and call your doctor. If the bite is severe, you should call 911 or go to the hospital for immediate treatment. While the injury may look clean initially or you may not be concerned because the animal has been vaccinated, it's possible that the wound could become infected shortly due to bacteria getting deep into the wound.

To stop the bleeding, apply pressure with a clean towel, and then apply a sterile bandage. If the wound is bleeding heavily, seeking medical help immediately is important, but elevating the injury above the heart will also help slow blood loss.

When should you report the incident?

After you receive medical help, report the incident to the police or animal control office. If you need treatment like stitches or antibiotics, then these costs should be covered by the person whose animal bit you. If the animal's vaccination records aren't available, you may need to receive rabies shots to prevent the disease. If the animal can be tested, this may be done first, or your doctor may preemptively give you the shots, since the disease is progressive and deadly.

Source: Family Doctor, "How should I take care of a bite from a cat or a dog?," accessed June 02, 2016

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