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September 19, 2018

Animal Bites: Emergency Room Tips 

Animal Bites: Emergency Room Tips 

Nothing can prepare an adult or child from being attacked by dogs, cats, hamsters; raccoons, and squirrels. However, knowing what to do immediately after being bitten can greatly benefit you.

Often, bites are associated with family pets like dogs and cats. This normally occurs when the pets are teased or provoked. Unprovoked bites could be an indication that the animal has rabies and needs to be caught, quarantined, and closely monitored.

Most adult patients admitted at FrontLine ER  have animal bites on the hands and face. Treatment should commence immediately for each bite patient to avoid infectious complications.

Who Is Most at Risk for Animal Bites?

Both children and adults that have kept pets in their houses are at an increased risk of being bitten. Nonetheless, bite-related injuries are highest in children aged five to nine. In adults, men are more likely to experience animal bites compared to women.

Management of Animal Bite Wounds

If you are in Richmond or Dallas Texas, and you are losing a lot of blood due to an animal bite, do not be afraid, call FrontLine ER. Your health is our priority.

Assessment

Emergency physicians at FrontLine ER will first assess the risk of infection, look for other injuries, and try to minimize scarring or deformity that may come about due to this bite.

The wound will be studies carefully to look for any remains of dirt, grass, teeth, or other objects that may have settled into the affected area. Leaving behind any of these residues would considerably increase your chances of getting an infection.

Irrigation

If there is any contamination, the surface of the wound is cleaned using 1% povidone-iodine solution and an irrigation device or a syringe (without the needle). Doctors may also ask additional questions that will assist them determine if there is a risk of rabies exposure or if the patient needs to get a tetanus vaccination.

Imaging

Imaging either via X-ray, CT scanning or ultrasonography may be requested to look for bone fractures or to make certain that no debris has been left in the wound.

Tissue Removal /Debridement

Animal bites can macerate and tear apart the skin and tissue in humans.  Skin tears are often irreparable due to the damage caused by the animal’s teeth. 

The risk of infection intensifies significantly in these types of injuries because; these areas usually have little or no blood supply to them. It is mandatory to remove them because they are dead tissues.

The process involves numbing the wound with lidocaine, and then cutting the skin with a scalpel to remove the tissue. By debriding, there will be minimal risk of infection and promote quicker healing of the wound.

Closure

Suturing is not recommended for all types of animal bite wounds. However, if need be, some wounds are stitched as soon as they occur (primary closure) while others are repaired a few days later (delayed closure).

Emergency physicians can perform primary closures on wounds that are relatively clean or are on cosmetic areas like the face. The emergency physician at FrontLine ER will discuss with the patient the advantages and risks involved therein.

Delayed closure or no closure is often performed on an area that is deeply contaminated, e.g., a wound that is on an arm or leg. It is also imperative to note that animal bites to the hand have a very high risk of infection.

Antibiotics for Animal Bite Treatment

If doctors prescribe antibiotics, it is important to note that they are used to prevent infection and not to treat the infection. That is why most doctors would suggest monitoring the wound closely for any signs or symptoms of an infection.

Traditionally, cat bites with a deep puncture, bites in elderly and diabetic patients generally warrant the use of antibiotics.

Follow-Up Treatment for Animal Bites

Once discharged from FrontLine ER, you will receive guidelines on how to care for the bite wound. Most doctors will request for a reassessment of the wounds in 48 hours to look for any signs of an infection.

The doctor will also notify the patient on when the stitches may need to be removed. However, this will depend on the location where the wound is located. For instance, stitches in the face can come out in 3 to 5 days; stitches on major joints can stay on for up to two weeks.

Can Animal Bites Be Prevented?

With good judgment, a person can lower the risk of being bitten by an animal by:

  • Avoiding contact and interaction with unknown animals even if they appear friendly.
  • Do not feed, try to catch, or tease wild animals such as squirrels, raccoons, or rats
  • When an animal is feeding or taking care of its young–ones, do not disturb them
  • Do not rely on the comfort of a family cat or dog.  Use great care when “aggressively” playing with it as it can still bite its owner by accident.
  • If you are visiting the zoo or pet store, do not stick your fingers into animals’ cages.

Follow the above tips and you will be safe from all kinds of animal bites.

Emergency Care, Emergency Room