Animal Bites

Basic Information

Description

Bite wounds to humans from dogs, cats, or other animals, including humans.

Frequent signs and symptoms

  • Bite wounds can be tears, punctures, scratches, ripping, or crush injuries.
  • Dog bites usually involve the hands, face, or the lower extremities.
  • Cat bites usually involve the hands, followed by lower extremities, face and trunk.

Causes

  • Most bite wounds are from a domestic pet known to the victim. Large dogs are the most common source.
  • Human bites are often the result of one person striking another in the mouth with a clenched fist.

Risk increases with

Exposure to domestic pets or wild animals. Dog bites rarely become infected. Cat bites and human bites frequently become infected.

Preventive measures

  • Education on how to avoid animal bites for children as well as adults.
  • Avoid stray animals.

Expected outcomes

Wounds should steadily improve and close over by 7-10 days.

Possible complications

Complications from bites can included infection, extensive soft tissue injuries with scarring, hemorrhage, rabies, and sometimes death.

Animal Bites Treatment

General measures

  • Wound cleaning.
  • Surgical closure if needed.
  • Wound usually will be left open to heal to lessen risk of infection.
  • Splint hand if it is injured.
  • Human bite wounds on the hands should not be closed primarily due to the high risk of infection.
  • Elevation of the injured extremity to prevent swelling.
  • Contact the local health department and ask about the prevalence of rabies in the species of animal involved.
  • If possible the animal that caused the bite should be held and checked for rabies.

Medications

  • Preventive antibiotic treatment may be prescribed.
  • Antitetanus injection may have to be given.
  • Sometimes, an antirabies vaccine or serum may have to be given.

Activity

No restrictions, except those caused by the injury.

Diet

No special diet.

Notify your physician if

  • You or a family member suffers from an animal bite.
  • The bite does not begin to heal within 2-3 days.
  • New or unexplained symptoms develop. Drugs used in treatment may produce side effects.

Last updated 14 June 2011


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