Animal and human bites

All bites that break the skin are serious. Even minor scrapes, such as in sports when someone’s mouth could graze your hand by accident, should be taken seriously.

You should always see your doctor after being bitten, as bites can easily become seriously infected. This is especially likely to happen with a bite that leaves a deep puncture wound.

Cat scratches can be as serious as cat bites, because cats constantly lick their claws and the claws carry germs from the cat’s mouth.

Don’t leave young children, babies and small animals alone with a dog. Teach children how to stay safe around dogs and other animals. It’s important to know when not to approach pets, farm or wild animals.

The Department of Internal Affairs Dog Safety website has information about dogs and keeping children safe.

Treat the injury

What to do if a bite breaks the skin.

  • Control bleeding by applying pressure to the wound. Do not apply a tourniquet.
  • If the animal bite appears serious, call 111 for emergency help.
  • For minor wounds, wash the area with running water for at least five minutes. You can then clean it with an antiseptic solution.
  • Don’t apply ointments or begin treatment with any kind of medicine.
  • Place a sterile bandage over the wound.

See your doctor as soon as possible.

Report the attack

If the animal is a pet and is confined, get the name and address of the owner. If the animal is loose, capture it if you can safely do so. Don’t place others at risk of being bitten.

Report the dog attack to your local council’s animal control officer. Contact the police to report an assault by a human.

Treatment for bites

Your doctor will probably give you:

  • antibiotics
  • a tetanus booster (if you have not had one within the past five to ten years)
  • instructions in wound care.
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