Animal bites and scratches, even minor ones, can sometimes lead to complications. Whether the animal is a family pet (in kids, most animal bites are from dogs) or a creature from the wild, scratches and bites can carry disease.
Some bites, especially those from cats, can become infected by bacteria from the animal's mouth. And cat scratch disease, a bacterial infection, can be transmitted by a cat scratch (usually from a kitten) even if the site of the scratch doesn't look infected. Certain animals — such as bats, raccoons, and foxes — can transmit rabies.
Kids whose tetanus shots are not up to date will need a shot (post-exposure tetanus prophylaxis) after an animal bite to prevent tetanus infection.
Teach your children to stay away from strange animals, and not to tease or provoke any animals, even known pets. Animals should not be disturbed while they are eating or sleeping.
If you own a pet, make sure it's properly immunized and licensed.
Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: February 2014
|Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) The CDC (the national public health institute of the United States) promotes health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability.|
|Immunization Action Coalition This organization is a source of childhood, adolescent, and adult immunization information as well as hepatitis B educational materials.|
|Selecting Safe Pets Selecting the right pet is a serious decision that your family should make together. Before you choose a pet, check out these tips and suggestions.|
|Checking Out Cuts, Scratches, and Abrasions If you're wearing a bandage right now, chances are you have a cut, scratch, or abrasion. Find out more about them in this article for kids.|
|Cat Scratch Disease Cat scratch disease is an infection that causes swelling of the lymph nodes after an animal scratch. Learn about signs and symptoms, prevention, treatment, and more.|
|Preventing Dog Bites Teaching kids a few basic dog manners will help them enjoy safe encounters with Fido.|
|Infections That Pets Carry Kids can benefit from the companionship, affection, and relationships they share with pets. But it's important to know how to protect your family from infections carried by pets and other animals.|
|Pets and Your Health Like people, pets can carry infections - and some of these can be transmitted to people. Find out how you and your pet can stay infection free.|
|Tetanus Tetanus (also called lockjaw) is a preventable disease that affects the muscles and nerves, usually due to a contaminated wound.|
|Rabies Rabies is a serious infection of the nervous system that is caused by a virus. Rabies is usually transmitted by a bite from an infected animal.|
|Rabies You may have heard of rabies, but how do animals get it? And, more importantly, how can people and animals avoid it? Find out in this article for kids.|
|First Aid: Animal Bites Animal bites and scratches that break the skin can cause infection. Rarely, animal bites can cause rabies, a dangerous, life-threatening disease.|
|Dogs and Preventing Dog Bites Are you a little afraid of dogs? Some kids are, so find out how you can make friends with dogs and avoid dog bites.|
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