Dog and cat bites

Am Fam Physician. 2014 Aug 15;90(4):239-43.


Animal bites account for 1% of all emergency department visits in the United States and more than $50 million in health care costs per year. Most animal bites are from a dog, usually one known to the victim. Most dog bite victims are children. Bite wounds should be cleaned, copiously irrigated with normal saline using a 20-mL or larger syringe or a 20-gauge catheter attached to the syringe. The wound should be explored for tendon or bone involvement and possible foreign bodies. Wounds may be closed if cosmetically favorable, such as wounds on the face or gaping wounds. Antibiotic prophylaxis should be considered, especially if there is a high risk of infection, such as with cat bites, with puncture wounds, with wounds to the hand, and in persons who are immunosuppressed. Amoxicillin/clavulanate is the first-line prophylactic antibiotic. The need for rabies prophylaxis should be addressed with any animal bite because even domestic animals are often unvaccinated. Postexposure rabies prophylaxis consists of immune globulin at presentation and vaccination on days 0, 3, 7, and 14. Counseling patients and families about animal safety may help decrease animal bites. In most states, physicians are required by law to report animal bites.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antibiotic Prophylaxis / methods*
  • Bites and Stings* / diagnosis
  • Bites and Stings* / epidemiology
  • Bites and Stings* / therapy
  • Cats*
  • Dogs*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Sodium Chloride / administration & dosage
  • Therapeutic Irrigation / methods
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Wound Infection / prevention & control*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Sodium Chloride