Animal Bites

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

An animal bite is an injury that is the result of the flesh of aperson being caught between the teeth of the upper and lower jaws of an animal.Animal bites do not include insect bites.

What are the causes and risks of the injury?

The most common animal bite is a dog bite. Cat bites are the second mostcommon. Cat bites can be more serious because they produce puncture-typewounds. Stray animals and wild animals, including bats, cause a number of biteseach year. Any animal that bites a human should be confined and the properauthorities notified. The animal should be tested for rabies.

Symptoms & Signs

What are the signs and symptoms of the injury?

The signs and symptoms of an animal bite can vary. The bite can look like asurface scratch with little or no break in the skin. An animal bite can bleeda little or a lot. The bite can tear or puncture the skin. There can also becrush injuries with someanimal bites.

If the bite becomes infected, the following symptoms may occur:

  • fever and chills
  • increasing pain
  • pus draining from the wound
  • redness and warmth at the site of the bite
  • redness around the site, with red streaks radiating outward
  • swelling around the wound
  • Diagnosis & Tests

    How is the injury recognized?

    A history of the animal bite from the individual or witnesses canprovide a clue to the diagnosis. Often the bite can be diagnosed from the toothmarks on the person’s skin.

    Prevention & Expectations

    What can be done to prevent the injury?

    Most animal bites can be prevented by following these guidelines.

  • Teach children not to approach any unfamiliar pets or wild animals.
  • Avoid approaching an animal aggressively.
  • Don’t tease animals.
  • Don’t feed or play with wild animals, including squirrels andraccoons.
  • Don’t stick fingers into animal cages at pet stores, shows, or zoos.
  • When an animal is caring for its offspring, leave it alone.
  • Treatment & Monitoring

    What are the treatments for the injury?

    There are three things to consider when treating animal bites:

  • preventing infection
  • preventing rabies
  • stopping bleeding
  • If bleeding is not severe, the wound should be washedwith mild, soapy water for 3 to 5 minutes. It should then be covered with aclean dressing. Bleeding may be controlled by applying direct pressure overthe wound with a clean, dry cloth. Elevation of the area also helps controlthe bleeding.

    If the wound does not need stitches, it should be observed for thenext 24 to 48 hours for signs of infection. If the wound becomes infected, ahealthcare professional should be consulted. The provider should also becontacted if the person has not had a Clostridium tetani\ bacteria. tetanus shot in the past 5 years.

    Emergency care should be sought immediately in these situations.

  • There are serious injuries.
  • The person is suffering from severe blood loss.
  • There are many bites.
  • A significant amount of flesh has been lost.
  • The person has been bitten by a strange animal.
  • The healthcare provider may consider the following treatmentoptions:

  • antibiotics to prevent or treat infection
  • debridement, or surgical removal of damaged or infected tissue
  • irrigation, a procedure that floods the bite area to wash out foreignobjects
  • pain medicines
  • sutures to close thewound
  • X-rays to look for bonefractures or foreign bodies left in the wound
  • Rabies is very rare but can be fatal. It is transmitted in thesaliva of rabid bats, skunks, raccoons, and foxes. Pets that have not receivedrabies shots can also carry the rabies virus. There are two ways to tell if ananimal has rabies. The first way is to capture the animal and observe it for10 days. If the animal does not become sick in that time, it is not rabid.The second way is to destroy the animal and examine its brain. There is no curefor rabies once it has developed. The rabies vaccine can be effective whengiven before symptoms develop.

    What are the side effects of the treatments?

    With any wound, there are always the risks of infection and bleeding. In somecases, sutures are notused because they may trap bacteria inside. All antibiotics can causeallergic reactions,gastrointestinal distress, or other side effects.

    What happens after treatment for the injury?

    Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcareprovider.

    Article type: xmedgeneral