Animal bite

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This article is about the wound. For the action, see Biting. For other uses, see Bite (disambiguation).
Animal bite
USN Medic Louis Kost gets attacked by Bruno crop retouch.tif
Military working dog training to attack by biting
Classification and external resources
Specialty emergency medicine
ICD-10 T14.1
ICD-9-CM E906.5
MedlinePlus 000034
eMedicine article/768875
MeSH D001733

An animal bite is a wound received from the teeth of an animal, including humans. Animals may bite in self-defence, in an attempt to prey on food, and as part of normal interactions. Other bite attacks may be apparently unprovoked. Self-inflicted bites occur in some genetic illnesses, such as Lesch-Nyhan syndrome. Biting is an act that occurs when an animal uses its teeth to pierce another object, including food, flesh, and inanimate matter. A person bitten by an animal potentially carrying parvovirus or rabies virus should consult a physician immediately. Those who have been bitten by an animal may also develop bacterial infections of the bone called osteomyelitis which can become life-threatening if untreated, whether or not the animal has parvovirus or rabies virus.

Signs and symptoms[edit]

Bite wounds can cause a number of signs and symptoms

Impala killed and skinned by leopard bites


A mosquito bite

Bites are usually classified by the type of creature causing the wound. Many different creatures are known to bite humans.


Involuntary biting injuries due to closed-fist injuries from fists striking teeth (referred to as reverse bite injuries) are a common consequence of fist fights. These have been termed "fight bites". Injuries in which the knuckle joints or tendons of the hand are bitten into tend to be the most serious.

Teething infants are known to bite objects to relieve pressure on their growing teeth, and may inadvertently bite people's hands or arms while doing so. Young children may also bite people out of anger or misbehaviour, although this is usually corrected early in the child's life.

In spite of their name, love bites are not biting injuries (they involve bruising from sucking, and the skin is not broken), although actual biting injuries are sometimes seen as the result of fetishistic activities.



Initial treatment includes washing the bite wound.[3] If there is a low risk of infection the wound may be sutured.[3]


Antibiotics to prevent infection are recommended for dog and cat bites of the hand,[4] and human bites if they are more than superficial.[5] They are also recommended in those who have poor immune function.[3] Evidence for antibiotics to prevent infection in bites in other areas is not clear.[6]

The first choice is amoxicillin with clavulanic acid, and if the person is penicillin-allergic, doxycycline and metronidazole.[5] The antistaphylococcal penicillins (e.g., cloxacillin, nafcillin, flucloxacillin) and the macrolides (e.g., erythromycin, clarithromycin) are not used for empirical therapy, because they do not cover Pasteurella species.[5]


Animal bites, most commonly dogs and bats, transmit rabies to humans.[7] Rabies from other animals is rare.[7] If the animal is caught alive or dead with its head preserved, the head can be analyzed to detect the disease. Signs of rabies include foaming at the mouth, self-mutilation, growling, jerky behavior, and red eyes.

If the animal cannot be captured, preventative rabies treatment is recommended in many places. Certain places, such as Hawaii, Australia, and the United Kingdom, are known not to have native rabies. Treatment is generally available in North America and the Northern European states.


Tetanus toxoid is recommended in those whose vaccinations are not up to date and have a bite that punctures the skin.[3] Tetanus immune globulin is indicated in people with more than 10 years since prior vaccination. Tetanus boosters (Td) should be given every ten years.

Prior toxoid Clean minor wounds All other wounds
< 3 doses TT: yes, TIG: no TT: yes, TIG: yes
≥ 3 doses TT: if last dose ≥ 10yr
TIG: no
TT: if last dose ≥ 5yr, TIG: no

TT = tetanus toxoid; TIG: tetanus immune globulin

Mosquito bites[edit]

Antihistamines are effective treatment for the symptoms from bites.[8] Many diseases such as malaria are transmitted by mosquitoes.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kenneth M. Phillips (2009-12-27). "Dog Bite Statistics". Retrieved 2010-08-06. 
  2. ^ Questions and Answers about Dog Bites[dead link]
  3. ^ a b c d "Animal bites Fact sheet N°373". World Health Organization. February 2013. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  4. ^ "BestBets: Antibiotics in cat bites". 
  5. ^ a b c Oehler RL, Velez AP, Mizrachi M, Lamarche J, Gompf S (2009). "Bite-related and septic syndrome caused by cats and dogs". Lancet Infect Dis 9 (7): 439–47. doi:10.1016/S1473-3099(09)70110-0. PMID 19555903. 
  6. ^ Medeiros I, Saconato H (2001). Medeiros, Iara Marques, ed. "Antibiotic prophylaxis for mammalian bites". Cochrane Database Syst Rev (2): CD001738. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001738. PMID 11406003. 
  7. ^ a b "Rabies Fact Sheet N°99". World Health Organization. Sep 2014. Retrieved Jan 2015. 
  8. ^ "BestBets: Oral antihistamines for insect bites". 

External links[edit]