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Bites, Animal and Human

Bites, Animal and Human is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Clinical Consult.

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  • Bite rates vary by species: dogs (60–90%), cats (5–20%), rodents (2–3%), humans (2–3%), and rarely other animals, including snakes
  • System(s) affected: potentially any

Pediatric Considerations
Young children are more likely to sustain bites and have bites that include the face, upper extremity, or trunk.


  • Predominant age: all ages but children > adults
  • Predominant gender: dog bites, male > female; cat bites, female > male

  • 3 to 6 million animal bites per year in the United States (1)
  • Account for 1% of all injury-related ED visits
  • 1–2% will require hospital admission, and 20 to 35 victims die from dog bite complications annually.

Etiology and Pathophysiology

  • Most dog bites are a domestic pet known to the victim.
  • Most (~90%) cat bites are provoked.
  • Dog bites most commonly reported from pit bull terriers, and German shepherds.
  • Human bite wounds are typically incurred by striking another in the mouth with a clenched fist.
  • Bites also occur incidentally (e.g., paronychia due to nail biting, thumb sucking, or nonmalicious gentle bites to the face, breasts, or genital areas).
  • Animal bites can cause tears, punctures, scratches, avulsions, or crush injuries.
  • Contamination by oral flora leads to infection.

Risk Factors

  • Older, male dogs more likely to bite.
  • Clenched-fist human bites are frequently associated with the use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Patients presenting >8 hours following the bite are at greater risk of infection.

General Prevention

  • Instruct children and adults about animal hazards.
  • Enforce animal control laws.
  • Educate dog owners.

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Stephens, Mark B., et al., editors. "Bites, Animal and Human." 5-Minute Clinical Consult, 27th ed., Wolters Kluwer, 2019. Medicine Central, im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/816136/all/Bites__Animal_and_Human.
Bites, Animal and Human. In: Stephens MB, Golding J, Baldor RA, et al, eds. 5-Minute Clinical Consult. 27th ed. Wolters Kluwer; 2019. https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/816136/all/Bites__Animal_and_Human. Accessed March 26, 2019.
Bites, Animal and Human. (2019). In Stephens, M. B., Golding, J., Baldor, R. A., & Domino, F. J. (Eds.), 5-Minute Clinical Consult. Available from https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/816136/all/Bites__Animal_and_Human
Bites, Animal and Human [Internet]. In: Stephens MB, Golding J, Baldor RA, Domino FJ, editors. 5-Minute Clinical Consult. Wolters Kluwer; 2019. [cited 2019 March 26]. Available from: https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/816136/all/Bites__Animal_and_Human.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - ELEC T1 - Bites, Animal and Human ID - 816136 ED - Stephens,Mark B, ED - Golding,Jeremy, ED - Baldor,Robert A, ED - Domino,Frank J, BT - 5-Minute Clinical Consult, Updating UR - https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/816136/all/Bites__Animal_and_Human PB - Wolters Kluwer ET - 27 DB - Medicine Central DP - Unbound Medicine ER -