Bites, Animal and Human

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

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Basics

Description

  • Animal 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.

Epidemiology

  • All ages but children > adults
  • Dog bites, male > female; cat bites, female > male

Incidence
  • 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 from a domestic pet known to the victim.
  • Most (~90%) cat bites are provoked.
  • Dog bites are most commonly associated with pit bull terriers and German shepherds.
  • Human bite wounds are typically incurred by striking another in the mouth with a clenched fist.
  • Human 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 are 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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