Animal bites and scratches, even minor ones, can sometimes lead to complications. Whether the animal is a family pet (in kids, most animal bites that are reported are from dogs) or a creature from the wild, scratches and bites can carry disease. Some bites, especially from cats, can get infected by bacteria from the animal's mouth. And cat scratch disease, a bacterial infection, can develop from a cat scratch (usually from a kitten) even if the scratch site doesn't look infected. Some animals — such as bats, raccoons, and foxes — can spread 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. What to Do: If the bite or scratch wound is bleeding, apply pressure to the area with a clean bandage or towel until the bleeding stops. If available, use clean latex or rubber gloves to protect yourself and to prevent the wound from getting infected. If the wound is not bleeding heavily, clean it with soap and water, and hold it under running water for several minutes. Dry the wound, apply antibiotic ointment, and cover it with sterile gauze or a clean cloth. Call your doctor if the bite or scratch broke or punctured the skin, even if the area is small. A child who is bitten by an animal may need antibiotics, a tetanus booster, or rarely, a series of rabies shots. A bite or scratch on a child's face, hand, or foot is particularly at risk for infection and should be checked by your doctor as soon as possible. If your child was bitten or scratched by an unfamiliar or wild animal, note the location of the animal. Some animals may have to be captured, confined, and observed for rabies. But do not try to capture the animal yourself. Instead, call the animal control office or animal warden in your area. Get immediate medical care if: the wound is on the face, neck, hand, foot, or near a joint the wound won't stop bleeding after 10 minutes of direct pressure the wound appears to be deep, large, or severe the attacking animal was stray or wild or behaving strangely the bite or scratch has pus coming from it, or becomes red, hot, swollen, or increasingly painful your child has a weakened immune system or other medical condition that might make an infection more likely your child's tetanus immunizations are not up to date Teach your children to stay away from strange animals, and not to tease or provoke any animals, even family 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. Back to Articles Related Articles 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. Read More 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. Read More Tetanus Tetanus (also called lockjaw) is a preventable disease that affects the muscles and nerves, usually due to a contaminated wound. Read More 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. Read More Cat Scratch Disease Cat scratch disease is an infection that causes swelling of the lymph nodes after a cat scratch or bite. Learn about signs and symptoms, prevention, treatment, and more. Read More 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. Read More Preventing Dog Bites Teaching kids a few basic dog manners will help them enjoy safe encounters with Fido. Read More Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.