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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Bites From Animals View In Dogs

First Aid Condition

First aid health condition




Condition Overview

Cats and dogs are sometimes bitten by wild animals like raccoons, but they are more likely to be bitten by other pets. Dogs tens to be bitten by other dogs and cats by other cats, most commonly over territorial disputes. Cats can also be bitten by dogs who consider them prey.


A bite from a cat punctures like a needle, so you most likely won't notice the wound until it swells with infection and your cat (or dog) limps or licks the wound.

Dog bites are always serious because the long canine teeth poke a single hole in the skin but then tear the muscle underneath when the dog shakes his victim. Internal organs can tear, bones can break from the trauma, and eyes can pop from the sockets. If your pet gets bitten, take him to the vet, even if the damage appears minor.


Nearly all cat bites get infected, so your vet will probably prescribe antibiotics to prevent an abscess from forming.


Diagnosis is made by physical examination.


It takes bacteria about 1 hour to multiply enough to cause problems, so first aid during this period may help prevent infection. You will also need first aid for serious wounds to control bleeding or breathing problems until you can reach help.

  1. Break it up - If you see your pet attacked, do not try to pull the animals apart. It is highly likely that you will be bitten or clawed during the scramble. If you have access to a hose, spray both animals on the head with the blast of water until they stop. You can also use a bucket of water or some other distraction like a whistle or a long pole used to swat them away. If you use the pole, do not hit the animals, or they may turn to include you in the disagreement. Instead use it to poke and push the animals apart.

  2. Check your pet's breathing and heartbeat - Animal bites can puncture or bruise the lungs and heart, and pets can loose consciousness and stop breathing. You may need to give artificial respiration.
    • Close your pet's mouth
    • Place your lips over her nose, and give 2 quick breaths - watch to see that the chest rises.
    • Remove your lips and let the air escape.
    • Give 15 - 20 breaths per minute until she starts breathing again, or until you reach medical help.
    Feel or listen for a heartbeat by placing you palm on the left side of the chest behind the elbow. You can also feel the pulse in the crease where her hind leg joins her body. IF her heart stops beating, begin CPR.

  3. Perform CPR - CPR can jump start a heart when it has stopped beating. For a cat or small dog, cup a hand over the point of the chest just behind the elbows. Squeeze firmly in a "cough-like" manner between your fingers and thumb, pressing about 1.2 inch (12.5cm) about 80 - 100 times per minute. Alternate one breath for every 5 compressions.

    For a larger dog, put him on a firm, flat surface on his side and use both hands on top of each other to compress his chest by 25 - 50% giving a breath into the nose after every 5th compression until your pet revives or until you reach medical help.

  4. Watch for signs of shock - If your pet has pale gums and is losing consciousness, it can mean a severe loss of blood either inside or outside of the body. This can lead to shock, a condition in which the organs eventually shut down. Shock can kill your pet in as little as 10 - 20 minutes. Wrap her in a blanket to slow the shock process, put her in a pet carrier on the backseat of the car, and get her to the vet immediately. you can also put a drop or two of Karo syrup or honey on your pet's gums to help keep her conscious.

  5. Control bleeding - Animal bites don't a lot unless a blood vessel is cut. To control bleeding, put a clean cloth or gauze pad against the wound and apply pressure. The bleeding should stop in 5 minutes or less. If the pad soaks through, put another on top of the first and keep the pressure. Do not remove the first pad, or you will disturb any clots that are forming. You can use a pressure bandage by wrapping the pad with an elastic bandage (Ace), strips of cloth, or tape.

  6. Seek medical attention - When a leg wound continues to rapidly drip blood despite a pressure bandage, get to your vet as quickly as possible. Ask a friend to drive or to continue first aid while you drive, and apply pressure with your hand on top of the bandage until you reach the animal hospital.

  7. Restrain your pet - Bite wounds are often so painful that you will need to restrain your pet, in order to treat her - otherwise, the dog may turn and bit you out of reflex. Wrap cats and small dogs in a towel or pillow case that allows access to the wound. Put larger dogs on a tabletop or kneel beside them on the floor. Bring one arm up around your dog's neck and the other arm under and around her tummy and hug her to your chest.

    As long as she is breathing normally, you could muzzle her to protect yourself while you treat the wound. A necktie or panty hose works well. Tie it around your pet's muzzle and knot it on the top, then wrap and tie again beneath her chin. Next, pull the ends back behind her ears and tie them. For cats and snub nosed dogs like pugs, you can use a pillowcase as described above. Do not do this if for pet is having trouble breathing.
  8. Protect wounds on your pet's belly or chest - Wrap a large, clean bath towel around the wound, keeping it loose so that you don't restrict your pet's ability to breathe. Secure the towel with an elastic adhesive bandage like Elastoplast.

  9. Keep eyes moist - If your pet has an eye out of the socket - Click Here

  10. Clear the area - Don't clean bites that bleed a lot. That can keep them from forming a clot. Once wounds have stopped bleeding, you can gently clean the area. For long haired pets, clip away the fur around the bite to keep bacteria from the fur from entering the wound. Use electric clippers if you have them, or clip carefully with blunt scissors. If you are using scissors, first slip your index and second fingers through the fur and hold them against the wound. Cut the fur so that its level with your fingers, clipping a 1 inch (25cm) border all the way around the wound. If the skin is broken, fill the wound with K-Y Jelly before you clip. Then thoroughly rinse the wound with warm water after you have finished. The trimmed fur will stick to the jelly and wash out.

  11. Clean the area with peroxide - Use a small amount of 3% hydrogen peroxide on a clean washcloth to wipe off the area surrounding visible wounds. Warm water will also work if peroxide is not available. Don't pour hydrogen peroxide on open wounds however, because it will damage living cells and make healing more difficult. Hydrogen peroxide will also effectively bleach blood from fur, the floor, and furniture.

  12. Numb the pain with ice - Pain medicine like aspirin can interfere with clotting and make bleeding worse. Instead, apply an ice pack within the first half-hour after the bite to dull the pain. It will also help reduce swelling and bruising from crushing bites.

    Rinse a clean washcloth in cold water and hold it against the injury, then place a cold pack or plastic bag of ice on top. Apply this for 10 - 30 minutes several times a day. A bag of frozen peas or corn works well as a cold pack to mold to the body contours.


Never let your dog or cat roam freely in the outdoors.


It is important to keep puncture wounds like cat bites open so they can drain and avoid sealing in bacteria that cause infection. Apply cold compress several times a day for 10 - 30 minutes. If you were late in detecting the bite and an infection seems to be developing, use hot packs wrapped in a towel 2 - 5 times daily - 5 minutes on, 5 minutes off until it cools. Don't apply a hot pack to a fresh wound - it can make the bleeding worse. NEVER put a hot pack in an armpit or groin area.

Nearly all pets who have animal bites need antibiotics to fight infection. Your veterinarian may give your pet an injection, but you will often need to give pills everyday for 7 - 10 days.

To give a pill, try hiding it in something tasty, like peanut butter or cheese. This works better for dogs than cats. Dogs and cats will open their mouths if you gently press their lips against the sides of their teeth. Once your pets mouth opens, push the pill to the back of her tongue with your finger or use a commercial pill syringe (available at pet supply stores). Then close her mouth and stroke her throat until you see her swallow. If you haven't given your pet a pill before, handle her carefully, as she may bite.

Animal bites often need stitches and a soft latex drainage tube put under the skin to keep serum and infected fluids from collecting. Keep the area clean and dry by wiping away any drainage with a little 3% hydrogen peroxide or warm water along the suture line.

Some pets lick and chew their wounds or stitches, which will interfere with healing. A protective bandage won't work, because it's best to leave bite wounds open to the air to speed healing. Prevent your pet from bothering the wound with an Elizabethan collar (the cone shaped 'hat').

Show Sources & Contributors +


The First Aid Companion for Dogs And Cats

Publisher: Rodale Inc, 2001

Website: http://www.rodalebooks.com/

Authors: Amy D. Shojai, Shane Bateman DVM

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