Clinical features and management of animal bites in an emergency department: a single-center experience

Postgrad Med. 2023 Jan;135(1):31-37. doi: 10.1080/00325481.2022.2124089. Epub 2022 Sep 19.


Objectives: This study aimed to evaluate the clinical features, management, and outcomes of patients with animal bites presented to the pediatric emergency department of a tertiary center.

Methods: Patients with ICD-10 code W54 (contact with dog) and W55 (contact with other mammals) between March 1st, 2017, and July 1st, 2021, were included in the study. Demographic characteristics of the patients, type of contacted animal, wound characteristics (muscle involvement, soft tissue defect, vascular injury, type of nerve injury, and Lackmann's classification), wound care measurements, tetanus prophylaxis, administration of rabies immunoglobulin and antibiotics, location of the injury, existing fractures, suturing, splinting, surgical consultations and hospitalization status were recorded.

Results: Four hundred and nineteen incidents of animal bites (240 males and 179 females) occurred over a four-year period. 51% was due to a dog bite; 47% was by a cat. The median age was nine years (IQR: 5-14 years). Most bites (91.6%) involved only a single anatomical site. The extremities were the commonly involved part (right upper limb [35.3%], left upper limb [21.2%], right lower limb [12.6%], left lower limb [16%]). Head-neck and face injury ratio was 17.6%. Torso (5.7%) and genitalia (5.2%) were uncommonly involved. A consultation was requested from at least one surgical department for 8% of the patients. 97.1% of patients received a rabies vaccine. Most attacks were trivial and did not require hospitalization.

Conclusion: Animal bites often cause minor injuries. However, multiple dog attacks can be seen related to a high number of stray animals in our country. Therefore, these patients may present with major traumas. Surgical intervention and hospitalization may be required. Emergency physicians play an essential role in acute management and rabies prophylaxis in these patients.

Keywords: Animal bites; cat; dog; emergency department; horse; rabies.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Bites and Stings* / drug therapy
  • Bites and Stings* / therapy
  • Dogs
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mammals
  • Rabies Vaccines* / therapeutic use
  • Rabies* / epidemiology
  • Rabies* / prevention & control


  • Rabies Vaccines
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents