Animal bites

All bites that break the skin are a cause for concern. Even minor scratches and scrapes should be taken seriously. Find out how to treat an animal bite, and how to report an attack.

Take care around animals

You should always see your healthcare provider after being bitten. Bites can easily become seriously infected. This is most likely to happen with a bite that leaves a deep puncture wound.


Cat scratches can be as serious as cat bites. This is because cats constantly lick their claws. The claws carry germs from the cat’s mouth.


Do not leave young tamariki, pēpi, and small animals alone with a dog. Teach tamariki how to stay safe around dogs and other animals. It is important to know when not to approach pets, farm or wild animals.

The Department of Internal Affairs Dog Safety website has information about dogs and keeping tamariki safe.

New Zealand Dog Safety (external link)

How to treat an animal bite

If you or someone you know is bitten by an animal:

  • control the bleeding by applying pressure to the wound — do not apply a tourniquet
  • wash the area of minor wounds with running water for at least 5 minutes
  • clean the wound with antiseptic solution
  • place a sterile bandage over the wound. 

Do not apply ointments or begin treatment with any kind of medicine. Contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible. As well as instructions on how to care for the wound, they will probably give you:

  • antibiotics
  • a tetanus booster, if you have not had one in the past 5 to 10 years.
If the animal bite appears serious, call 111 and ask for an ambulance.

Report the attack

If the animal is a pet and is confined, get the name and address of the owner.

If the animal is loose, capture it if you can safely do so. Do not place others at risk of being bitten.

Report the dog attack to your local council’s animal control officer. 

Local councils — Local Government in New Zealand (external link)