How to Treat a Rat Bite or Scratch

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When bitten by a rat, the best course of action is to never let yourself be bitten by a rat. Stay safe when a rat comes close to you and don’t go near a wild rat. Although they are often more afraid of you than they are, you can never be sure how wild animals will act.

Around a pet rat, make sure the animal is secure and not roaming freely. Rats will bite or scratch if scared or grabbed, so leave them alone.

If you are accidentally bitten by a mouse, you should seriously consider it and seek treatment.

This article explains the potential for infection from a rat bite and how to treat the wound or possible complications.

Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin

First aid for a rat bite or scratch

There are several steps you can and should take after being bitten by a rat:

  1. If you are not the victim, practice common precautions and wear personal protective equipment, if available, when assisting the person bitten.
  2. Control bleeding and clean the wound with soap and warm water. Clean the inside of the wound. Then remember to rinse off all the soap or else it will irritate the skin later.
  3. Cover the wound with a clean, dry bandage. You can apply antibiotic ointment to the wound before dressing it up.
  4. If the wound is on a finger, remove all rings from the injured finger in case it swells.
  5. Try to trap rodents after biting. This way, doctors can test it later to determine if the animal has an infection.

Signs of infection

Rat bites often lead to infection. If the wound shows any of the following signs within hours and days of being bitten, it may be infected:

  • Red
  • Swelling
  • Heat
  • Drain pus

When to see your doctor?

Always consult a doctor after being bitten by a rat. You may need a tetanus vaccine or you may need stitches.

Injuries to the face or hands are of particular concern because of the risk of scarring or loss of function and should always be evaluated by a physician.

Types of infections

The main concern with being bitten by a rat is that you will develop a specific type of bacterial infection called rat-bite fever (RBF). Humans can contract the disease if an infected mouse bites or scratches them.

Petting or caring for an infected animal can also transmit the bacteria. People can also get RBF from eating food or water contaminated with rat droppings.

Two types of bacteria that cause fever caused by rat bites are:

  • Streptobacillus moniliformis or S. moniliformis (most popular in the US)
  • Spirillum minus or S. minus (most popular in Asia)

The signs and symptoms of an infection from each bacteria are slightly different. The good news is that rat-bite fever can be effectively treated with antibiotics. However, if left untreated, rat-bite fever can be fatal.

Rat bite fever

Watch for the following symptoms and seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of them:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Back and joint pain
  • A rash on the hands and feet, often with one or more swollen joints

Symptoms of rat-bite fever usually appear 3 to 10 days after exposure or bite but can occur up to 3 weeks later. The rash usually appears two to four days after the fever.

Just because a bite or scratch seems to be getting better, don’t assume you’re in the clear. The infection can still be in your body. In fact, you may not have a fever until the wound has healed.

Complications from S. moniliformis Infection includes the formation of infected fluid sacs, called abscesses, in your abdomen or other parts of your body. Infection can also lead to hepatitis in the liver, meningitispneumonia and kidney disorder called nephritis.

About 10% of the developers S. moniliformis died of infection.

Spirillum Rat Bite Fever

Symptoms of S. minus RBF usually appears one to three weeks after exposure to an infected rodent. They are more variable than streptobacillus RBF, but may include:

  • Fever, which may resolve and recur
  • Irritation and possible ulceration of the bite wound
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Swelling around the wound
  • Purple or reddish rash

No treatment needed, S. minus RBF can be fatal when the infection spreads to the heart, brain, lungs, or other internal organs.

The risk of rabies is minimal

Rats are not the main source of rabies infection. While some people worry about it, it is rare for humans to catch rabies from any rodents. Bat bites are the most common source of rabies. Raccoons, skunks, and foxes can also transmit the disease.

Haverhill Fever

Another form of rat-bite fever is Haverhill fever. You can get this type of infection if you consume contaminated food or liquids. Symptoms may include severe vomiting and sore throat.

The treatment

Rat-bite fever should always be treated by a doctor. If left untreated, rat-bite fever can cause serious complications that can lead to death. Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics, which usually include:

  • Amoxicillin
  • Penicillin
  • Erythromycin
  • Doxycycline

Patients with severe heart-related rat-bite fever can receive high-dose penicillin and possibly antibiotics streptomycin or gentamicin.


Rat bite fever is a serious infection. S. moniliformis bacteria found in American rats have been linked to rashes and flu-like symptoms. S. minus bacteria found in Asian mice can cause swollen lymph nodes and irritation around wounds. Both types of bacteria cause infections that can be fatal if left untreated.

Thankfully, this condition can be cured with antibiotics. Avoiding contact with rats whenever possible is the best prevention, but if you find yourself bitten, scratched, or even exposed to a rat, you should talk to your doctor about the possibility of infection. coincide.

A very good word

As the saying goes, prevention is worth a pound of cure. This is especially true when it comes to rat bites.

Even domesticated rodents are unpredictable in nature and can bite you or can carry bacteria that can cause fever from rat bites. Take any wound you get from a rat seriously and be sure to wash your hands carefully if you touch it.

frequently asked Questions

  • How common is rat-bite fever?

    Rat-bite fever is uncommon. However, it is not always possible to identify cases because the bacteria are difficult to diagnose and the condition often responds well to prescribed antibiotics. There are about 20,000 to 40,000 rat bites in the United States each year. Risk of fever due to rat bites due to Streptobacillus moniliformis is supposed to be at least 10%.

  • Can you get a fever from a rat bite?

    Yes, it is possible to get a fever from a mouse bite. Other rodents that can carry rat-bite fever-causing bacteria include mice, squirrels, gerbils, and guinea pigs. If you are bitten by a mouse or other rodent, make sure to clean the wound and contact your healthcare provider.

  • Can rats carry rabies?

    Rats can carry rabies, but it’s extremely rare. Very few cases of rabies infection have been reported. In addition, it is not known whether they can be transmitted to humans. The same is true for hamsters, guinea pigs, chipmunks, rats, rabbits and hares. To be on the safe side, you should still contact your healthcare provider if you have been bitten by a rodent or wild animal.

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