Animal bites and scratches

Wounds caused by cats and dogs can become easily infected because of bacteria on their claws and teeth. There are a few things you need to keep in mind when it comes to bites and scratches from cats and dogs.

Dog bites:

  • Children between the ages of one and four are at the greatest risk of being bitten by a dog.
  • Small children are at the greatest risk because of their size, but also because they often don’t behave appropriately around dogs – pulling their tail, taking their food, putting their face into the face of the dog.
  • All dogs – regardless of temperament, age, or breed – can bite.
  • The beloved family pet is the most common biting culprit.

Cat scratch disease:

  • Cat scratch disease is an infection that is spread by fleas amongst cats.
  • The infection can be passed on to humans if an infected cat uses its claws to break the skin.
  • Cat scratch disease usually appears as a lump at the site of the broken skin. This may last for several weeks and result in a gland (usually in the armpit or groin depending on where the scratch occurred) becoming sore and swollen.
  • While most infections disappear without the need for any medical attentions, occasionally it’s necessary to take a course of antibiotics.

Preventing bites and scratches:

  • Always supervise young children near dogs – even the family pet!
  • Make sure that your dog is properly trained to sit, stay, drop and come.
  • Choose a breed that is suited to your families’ lifestyle and environment.
  • Teach your child to always ask permission from the owner before approaching an unfamiliar animal.
  • Never surprise a sleeping or eating dog.
  • Teach your child to stay calm, stand still and avoid eye contact rather than jump and shout, if he’s approached by an unfamiliar dog.
  • It’s your responsibility to keep your child safe around animals so teach him how to behave safely around animals.

If your child is bitten:

  • Always clean and disinfect the site of a scratch or bit thoroughly
  • If there is any sign of infection (red, hot, swollen), see your GP for advice.
  • Keep your child’s tetanus immunisation up to date to avoid the risk of tetanus.


This article was written by Ella Walsh for Kidspot.

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