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Animal Bites

Injuries due to animals are a common problem worldwide. The greatest number of injuries are due to bites and scratches from dogs, cats, monkeys and snakes. 

Animal bites can become infected if they are not checked and treated quickly.

Medical advice should always be sought if you have been bitten by an animal and the skin is broken.

Animals have bacteria and viruses in their mouths which can cause infection. Serious infections such as tetanus and rabies are rare in the UK, but it is important to seek medical advice. For further information following an animal bite in the UK, go to NHS Inform

Animal Bites Sustained Abroad

Animal bites are not uncommon in travellers and may carry a risk of rabies, tetanus and bacterial wound infections. During travel, dog bites are most common, followed by monkey bites. 

Children are at highest risk of being bitten and are more likely to sustain severe injury to the head and neck than adults.

Animal associated injury during travel is most common on trips to South East Asia among tourist travellers.

Types of injury

These include:

  • mechanical injury e.g. damage to tissue, fractures
  • infection – local or systemic
  • rabies
  • tetanus

Prevention Advice for Travellers

Travellers should be aware of the potential risks and consequences of animal bites and scratches during travel.

  • maintain a sensible distance from animals during travel, especially dogs, monkeys and cats - this is particularly important for young children
  • for travel in a rabies endemic country, be aware of the risk of rabies and the steps to take in the event of a rabies exposure. Pre-exposure vaccination may be advisable for higher risk travellers.

First Aid Post-Injury

Basic first aid should be carried out immediately, and you should urgently  seek medical assessment and advice.

  • Wounds should be washed thoroughly with soap and water and flushed under a running tap
  • Antiseptic such as iodine solution or alcohol should be applied.
  • If in a rabies endemic area, the need for rabies post exposure treatment should be assessed
  • A tetanus booster may be required
  • If the wound is considered high risk for infection, antibiotics may be needed
  • If the wound becomes red, swollen, hot or painful or fever develops, seek further medical advice.

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