For weather-related announcements, please visit our Facebook page
or call us directly at (410) 694-7999

Should I Go to Urgent Care for an Animal Bite?

Animal bites can happen when we least expect them, whether it’s a playful nip from a pet that goes a bit too far or an unexpected encounter with a wild animal. These incidents can leave us questioning whether urgent care is necessary. But just like any injury, animal bites vary in severity and may pose inherent risks to one’s overall health. FirstCall Medical Center is equipped to address such concerns, while providing the care needed to prevent complications from animal bites.

Why Animal Bites Happen

Animal bites can occur for a multitude of reasons, ranging from accidental encounters to defensive reactions:

  • Pets may bite during play if they become overly excited or feel threatened.
  • Wild animals, including rodents, raccoons, and snakes, may bite if they feel cornered or if humans inadvertently encroach on their territory.
  • Stray animals, uncertain or fearful around humans, might react aggressively when approached.

Determining the Level of Severity

Animal bites can vary greatly in magnitude, depending on both the animal and the circumstances:

  • Minor bites may break the skin slightly without causing deep wounds.
  • Moderate bites might result in puncture wounds, bleeding, and noticeable trauma to the skin and underlying tissues.
  • Severe bites could lead to deep lacerations, extensive damage to muscles and nerves, or even the transmission of diseases.

But animal bites also carry inherent risks that go beyond the initial wound, including:

  • Infection, as animal mouths harbor bacteria and viruses.
  • Rabies, particularly from wild animals or unvaccinated pets – a serious concern requiring immediate medical attention.
  • Tetanus, a risk if the wound is deep and the individual’s tetanus shots are not up to date.

Specific Considerations for Snake Bites

When it comes to snake bites, the concerns include:

  • Identifying if the snake is venomous. A bite from a venomous snake requires immediate medical attention.
  • The potential for venom to cause systemic reactions, affecting blood clotting, nerve function, and tissue health.
  • Immediate symptoms such as swelling, pain, redness, and potential allergic reactions.

Dangers of Venomous Snakes

Venomous snakes pose significant health risks through their bites, which can introduce various types of venom into the body depending on the species.

Each type of venom has distinct effects:

  • Neurotoxic venom can affect the nervous system, leading to difficulty breathing, muscle paralysis, and death if untreated. Examples include cobras (found in Africa and Asia), king cobras (Southeast Asia), black mambas (Africa), and sea snakes.
  • Hemotoxic venom destroys red blood cells, disrupts blood clotting, and causes organ degeneration and tissue damage. Examples include rattlesnakes (North and South America), vipers (found worldwide, including the Russell’s viper in Asia and the saw-scaled viper in Africa, the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent), and pit vipers (including the American copperhead and cottonmouth/water moccasin).
  • Cytotoxic venom causes localized tissue damage and death, leading to severe swelling and pain at the bite site. Examples include the puff adder (found in Africa), gaboon viper (Africa), and many-scaled pit viper (Asia).

Should I Go to Urgent Care for an Animal Bite?

Seeking medical attention is crucial if:

  • The bite is from an unknown, wild, or unvaccinated animal.
  • The bite is from a snake, especially if there’s uncertainty about its venomous nature.
  • There is excessive bleeding, deep wounds, or signs of infection (redness, swelling, warmth, pus).
  • The bite is on the face, hands, feet, or near a joint, affecting functionality.
  • The person bitten has not had a tetanus shot in the past five years.
  • There are concerns about rabies or other diseases transmitted through bites.

How FirstCall Can Help

At FirstCall Medical Center, we understand the urgency and complexity of treating animal bites.

  • Our emergency-trained specialists are skilled in treating wounds from animal bites, ensuring proper wound care and infection prevention.
  • With comprehensive on-site equipment, we can assess the severity of the bite, administer tetanus shots if necessary, and initiate rabies prophylaxis if and when indicated.
  • Our daily walk-in hours mean you can receive immediate care without a wait; an essential factor in preventing complications from animal bites.
  • We provide guidance on home care and follow-up visits to monitor healing and address any emerging concerns.

Animal bites, whether from pets or wildlife, demand prompt and professional attention to prevent infection and other complications. If you’ve been bitten, and the wound meets the criteria above, it is crucial to seek medical attention. FirstCall Medical Center is here to offer the expertise and care needed to address animal bites effectively, ensuring your peace of mind and well-being.