First-Aid 101: Animal Scratches and Bites

Updated on 09/27/2023

First-Aid 101: Animal Scratches and Bites

Imagine you’re out enjoying a leisurely walk in the park or spending quality time with a beloved pet when suddenly, in a split second, a scratch or bite occurs. Whether from a furry friend or an encounter with a wild animal, these incidents can be distressing.

Knowing how to handle animal scratches and bites is essential for your safety and well-being. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the basics of first aid for such injuries and help you stay prepared for any unexpected encounter.

Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Understanding the Risk

Animal scratches and bites can happen in various settings, including encounters with domestic pets, wildlife, or even stray animals. The risk of infection and injury varies depending on the type of animal and the circumstances of the incident. Understanding the potential risks is crucial:

Domestic Pets

Dogs: Dog bites are common and can range from minor to severe. Small, superficial scratches from a dog’s teeth might not require extensive treatment, but deep puncture wounds can be more dangerous due to the risk of infection.

Cats: Cat scratches and bites, often from playful or defensive behavior, can lead to infections. Cats carry bacteria in their mouths and claws, making prompt treatment essential.


Wild Animals: Encounters with wildlife, such as raccoons, squirrels, or stray animals, can result in scratches and bites. These are concerning because of the potential for rabies or other infections.

First-Aid Kit Must-Haves for Animal Scratches and Bites

Animal bites or cuts carry a real threat of infection. Dealing with them quickly is essential if you want to avoid infection and further ailment aside from the initial pain of injury. You can never be too certain if the animal that injured you carries any serious diseases.

Being prepared for animal scratches and bites means having a well-stocked first aid kit at your disposal. Here are the essential items to include in your kit:

  • Sterile Gauze Pads: These are crucial for covering and protecting the wound.
  • Adhesive Bandages: For smaller scratches and minor wounds, adhesive bandages come in handy.
  • Antiseptic Solution or Wipes: These are essential for cleaning the wound to reduce the risk of infection.
  • Hydrocortisone Cream: To help relieve itching and inflammation associated with bites and scratches.
  • Tweezers: Useful for removing any foreign debris that might be in the wound.
  • Scissors: To cut gauze or tape as needed.
  • Disposable Gloves: To protect both the victim and the person providing first aid.
  • Pain Relievers: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help manage pain.
  • Antibacterial Ointment: Apply this to the wound after cleaning to further reduce the risk of infection.
  • Emergency Contact Numbers: Have the contact information for your healthcare provider, local animal control, and the nearest emergency medical facility readily available.
  • Tetanus Shot Records: If available, keep a record of your most recent tetanus shot to help healthcare professionals assess your needs.
  • A First Aid Manual: In case you need guidance on how to provide first aid for various injuries.
  • Plastic Bags: These can be used to dispose of contaminated materials.
  • List of Allergies: If the injured person has known allergies, include a list of them in the kit.
  • Emergency Blanket: In case the situation requires waiting for medical assistance in challenging conditions.
  • Water and Snacks: It’s always a good idea to have some water and non-perishable snacks in your kit, especially if you need to wait for help.

Natural Supplements That Can Help Animal Scratches and Bites

Use the items listed below to supplement materials in your first-aid kit and methods advised by your doctor. Most of the following items can be found in your kitchen or medicine cabinet. Otherwise, they you can find them at natural wellness stores or supplement sections in supermarkets.

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Seek medical help for animal bites and scratches first and only use these natural remedies to fight infection.

Vitamin C – Taking vitamin C from foods can help boost the immune system and fight infection. Foods high in vitamin C include strawberries, broccoli, cantaloupe, papaya, kale and cauliflower. Likewise, you can take vitamin C in the form of a pill supplement, powder or liquid solution.

Vitamin B – Vitamin B contributes to the production of antibodies, which can fight infectious bacteria in the saliva and under the nails of different animals. Vitamin B can be found in vegetables, fish, pork, eggs, brown rice and oatmeal. You can also opt for a supplement in any of its available forms.

Echinacea tincture – An echinacea tincture can be used for up to five days to help heal animal bites or cuts. Take it orally to let the herbal concoction assist in the healing.

Goldenseal tea – Drinking goldenseal will increase your intake of antibiotics. You can even use a goldenseal teabag that has been steeped in hot water and place it directly on the wound. However, women who are pregnant and people with cardiovascular disease or diabetes should not use it, as the tea may pose potential health risks for individuals with these conditions

How to Take Care of Animal Scratches and Bites

Because you never know the health or conditions of the animal that cuts or scratches you, even if it is your own pet, you want to have a medical professional address your wounds. Different animals are prone to carry more threatening diseases, bacteria or infection than others.

When faced with an animal scratch or bite, here’s what you should do immediately:

  1. Safety First: If the animal is still nearby and poses a threat, move to a safe location.
  2. Control Bleeding: Apply gentle pressure to the wound with a clean cloth to control bleeding. If the wound is deep, cover it with a sterile bandage or clean cloth.
  3. Clean the Wound: Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and warm water for at least 5 minutes. Avoid using hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, as they can delay healing.
  4. Apply Antiseptic: Apply an over-the-counter antiseptic solution to the wound to reduce the risk of infection.

Pain Management

Animal scratches and bites can be painful. Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help manage discomfort. Follow the recommended dosage instructions, and consult a healthcare professional if pain persists.

Seeking Medical Attention

Whether it’s a minor scratch or a deep bite, seeking medical attention may be necessary. Here are some guidelines:

  1. Minor Wounds: Even minor wounds should be examined by a healthcare professional. They can determine if a tetanus shot or antibiotics are necessary.
  2. Deep Puncture Wounds: Deep bites or puncture wounds require immediate medical attention. They may need surgical cleaning, antibiotics, and a tetanus shot.
  3. Rabies Concerns: If bitten by a wild animal or an animal with unknown vaccination status, seek medical attention urgently. Rabies is a life-threatening disease, but immediate post-exposure prophylaxis can prevent it.
  4. Reporting the Incident: In some cases, it’s essential to report the incident to local animal control or health authorities to prevent potential outbreaks of diseases like rabies.

If you are injured with an animal bite or scratch, you may be better off being transported to the hospital by a friend or relative. If the wound feels especially painful or is bleeding profusely, call for an ambulance. The emergency medical respondents will be able to initiate first-aid on the way to the hospital.

If you choose to take care of the wound on your own, follow up with a doctor regarding possible medications needed and dealing with possible rabies.

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By Admin