A recent article in Canadian Living talked about how to treat pet bites. Three main tips were provided. My comments follow in bold.

1) If the bite has punctured the skin, wash the wound thoroughly with hot water, then cover with a sterile bandage. Excellent advice. Immediate cleaning of the wound is very important.

2) If the wound/scratch appears to be swelling, soak the area in a warm bath of Epsom salts: If the wound appears to  be swelling (a sign of potential infection) get thee to a physician. Actually, you should "get thee to a physician" before it gets to that point. A physician should be consulted promptly following any bite over the hand,  over a joint or tendon sheath (such as on the wrist or ankle), over any kind of implant or prosthesis, or in the groin area, or any bite to person who has a weakened immune system, who has had their spleen removed, or who has any serious underlying chronic disease. A large percentage of bites occur over these high risk sites, particularly the hands.

3) If the wound continues to look inflamed, visit your doctor right away.You’re better off getting this addressed proactively, before the site is swollen and persistently inflamed. It’s much easier to prevent bite infections than treat them.

Another tip I’d add is make sure the animal’s rabies vaccination status is known and report the bite to the appropriate Public Health authorities. There’s a big difference in terms of consequences and what needs to be done if it’s your pet versus some random animal you know nothing about.

The best information in this article was a very important point. "What is Dr. Conway’s best advice when dealing with aggressive pets? Avoid a bite altogether by taking proper precautions." That’s the key. Knowing how to interact with animals is a critical aspect of bite avoidance.

More information about bites can be found in our Bite Archives and on the Worms & Germs Resources page.