While 500,000 might seem like a startling number, if you compare it to the number of interactions between domesticated animals and Canadians, it’s not as frequent as you might imagine. You don’t need to feel afraid every time you interact with pets.

However, you still have to prepare yourself in the event that you or your child gets bitten or scratched by an animal. When you are around animals, take proper precautions—especially if the animal feels stressed, frightened, or overly excited. However, prevention only goes so far. Learn what to do in the event of an animal attack. If you or your child suffers serious injury, you may be liable for personal injury compensation.

General Advice

If a dog bites you, you’ll have different concerns than if a snake bites you. However, there are a few basic guidelines to follow:

  • Ask the animal’s owner for relevant medical information. Is the animal updated on all of its shots?
  • Examine the wound. Check if the bite or scratch broke the skin, and check how deep it goes.
  • Wash the wound site with soap and water if the wound is minor.
  • Keep an eye on the wound for a few days to watch any changes.

Seek immediate medical attention under the following circumstances:

  • The wound is deep or dirty, and you haven’t had a tetanus booster in the last 5 years.
  • The wound continues to bleed despite applied pressure.
  • The wound shows signs of infection.
  • The wound is deep, or if you don’t know the wound seriousness through visual inspection.

Dog and Cat Bites and Scratches

Even the calmest dog or cat can act out under the right circumstances. Children don’t always understand how to behave around animals, which is a large part of why children are more likely to suffer an animal attack.

Your son or daughter might think it is a fun game to chase after a neighbour’s pet and pull its tail. The animal probably wouldn’t agree. In frustration, a dog or cat might bite or scratch the child to try to get him or her to stop.

First, remove the victim from the situation. You wouldn’t want the agitated animal to strike again. Calm your child as you wash out the wound with soap and water. Dog and cat mouths are full of bacteria, so you’ll want to wash the wound thoroughly.

Examine the wound. If it went deep, occurred on the victim’s face, has ragged edges, or has a skin flap, visit a doctor for a thorough cleaning to avoid scarring and infection.

If the wound bleeds, use a clean towel to apply pressure to the wound. Elevate the affected area. Continue this for about 10–15 min. If the wound continues to bleed profusely, seek medical attention. Once you can control the bleeding, cover the area with gauze or a bandage.

Examine the wound twice a day for the next couple of weeks for signs of infection. Cats can transfer a disease called cat scratch fever, which inflames lymph nodes. Children have particular susceptibility. Contact a doctor if you notice warning signs like swelling, tenderness, or oozing.

Follow similar protocol for scratches.

Snake Bites

Maybe you don’t want a snake in your home, but it can be fun to see these fascinating reptiles in close proximity at a friend’s house. You might bring your son or daughter to see your friend’s snake up close. Your neighbour might even let you or your child feed the snake a mouse. If the snake gets excited, they might accidentally bite you or your child instead of their meal.

First you should relax. Snakes usually let go once they realize they bit the wrong thing. If the snake doesn’t let go, do not try to pull your hand out. The snake’s teeth are curved and it will only cause more damage. Ask someone to grab alcohol or a carbonated beverage. Pour the liquid into the snake’s mouth, and it should let go.

Verify with your friend that the snake is not venomous. If it is, immediately go to the doctor. The medical staff will want to know what type of snake bit you, so come prepared with that information.

Examine the wound. Snakes jaws can crush bones. If you suspect this has happened, seek immediate medical attention. If you don’t think you have any broken bones, clean the wound with water and anti-bacterial soap. Use an antibiotic ointment to clean the affected area. If you notice any streaking, redness, or other signs of infection, visit a doctor.If you exercise caution around animals, and you usually will be fine, but remember that accidents happen. Some resulting injuries may be small, but others could lead to a long recovery time and a stack of medical bills. If a neighbour’s pet injures you, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical costs. Some home owner’s insurance policies cover this. If the owner behaves less than cooperatively, contact a personal injury lawyer.