When to Visit the ER for Bites

When dealing with an animal or insect bite, it can be hard to know whether or not to go to the ER. Many bites are minor and can be treated at home, but depending on the animal or insect the bite came from, and where the bite occurred, emergency treatment may be necessary.

Dog, Cat, Pet and Wildlife Bites

Children are the most common group to be bitten by dogs, cats and other pets. Children are also most at risk of bites from other children. If a bite occurs, emergency care may be necessary in the following situations. 

  • Cat bites: Cat bites can easily become infected, especially when they happen on the hand or near a joint. A doctor will typically prescribe antibiotics.
  • Bites in the hand, face, or joints: Dog and cat bites to the face, hands or joint tissue can cause underlying damage and infection. 
  • Risk of rabies or tetanus: Wild or feral animal bites – or bites from livestock – carry the risk of rabies and tetanus. Follow-up shots may be necessary.
  • Risk of viral transmission: When human bites break the skin, viruses can be transmitted. It is always a good idea to have a human bite checked by a doctor. 

Snake, Spider and Insect Bites

Some snakes, spiders and insects can be very poisonous. 

  • Snake bite: Unless you know for sure the snake is not poisonous, seek emergency treatment and be prepared to describe the snake to the emergency staff.
  • Spider bite:The Denver metro area has a large population of black widow spiders. If you notice any of the following symptoms, seek emergency care:
    • Surrounding redness and warmth
    • Drainage from the bite
    • Severe pain at the bite location or anywhere else in the body
    • Severe cramping
    • Vomiting