Human and animal bites are relatively common and can result in minor injuries such as puncture wounds, scrapes, cuts or bruising. They most commonly occur to the face, hands, arms and legs. The primary concern for these bites is infection, which can usually be avoided with proper cleaning and treatment. Most human and animal bites can be treated with basic first aid techniques at home.
Animal bites occur most frequently when caution is not taken around an animal. Often times the animal (such as a dog or cat) is known to the individual, but may feel threatened temporarily and act out of self defense. In some cases, animal bites can occur from seemingly unprovoked animals, wild or domesticated. Human bites can occur for a variety of reasons. Children may bite playfully or as misbehavior. Adult bites may occur due to confrontations or as an act of self defense, and can also sometimes happen accidentally.
The most common types of bites are:
Dog bites – Dog bites are most common in school-aged children who may approach animals with less caution than adults. Often, the dog is known to the individual, who may interfere with it while it sleeps or eats and cause a provocation.
Cat bites – Cat bite puncture wounds are usually deeper than dog bites and have a greater risk of infection.
Livestock bites – Livestock, such as horses, mules, cows or sheep can cause crushing injuries with their powerful jaws, though these bites are less likely to puncture the skin.
Wild animal bites – These bites can occur during outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing or camping and can cause a wide variety of injuries from minor to serious depending upon the animal (i.e. raccoon, opossum, fox).
Snake bites – Snake bites can occur in gardens and yards or on outings to many different types of outdoor areas where activities disturb snakes that are hiding under rocks, fallen trees or vegetation. If you know a snake is not venomous, you should treat the snake bite as a puncture wound, but contact your health provider as soon as possible, in case a tetanus shot is needed. Be sure to note the snake's appearance in the event that you need to describe it to medical staff. If the snake is venomous, the patient will need to receive immediate anti-venom treatment.
Human bites – Human bites can be the cause of one person coming into contact with another person’s teeth, as can occur when a fist punches a mouth (also called a “fight bite”). These bites can become infected and should be thoroughly disinfected. Human bites caused by children are often more superficial but should be treated with equal caution.
Symptoms of a human or animal bite include:
Those who are physically aggressive are typically more at risk for adult human bites. Child human bites can occur most frequently to:
Animal bites occur most frequently to school-aged children. Boys are bitten about twice as often as girls. Animals that pose a risk for biting include, but are not limited to:
All animal and human bites need immediate medical attention unless they are very minor. This is because the high level of bacteria introduced by the bite itself can easily cause infection quickly. As soon as possible, do the following:
Call a doctor or seek other professional medical attention the same day for the following:
In some cases, a medical professional may recommend further treatment such as:
Because the majority of animal bites occur to young children, teaching them that animals may hurt them is the best prevention. Teaching children to treat animals respectfully and with caution alerts them to the fact that even the family dog can bite in certain instances. Other ways to help prevent human and animal bites include: