Dog, cat, and human bites: a review

J Am Acad Dermatol. 1995 Dec;33(6):1019-29. doi: 10.1016/0190-9622(95)90296-1.


It is estimated that half of all Americans will be bitten by an animal or another human being during their lifetimes. The vast majority of the estimated 2 million annual mammalian bite wounds are minor, and the victims never seek medical attention. Nonetheless, bite wounds account for approximately 1% of all emergency department visits and more than $30 million in annual health care costs. Infection is the most common bite-associated complication; the relative risk is determined by the species of the inflicting animal, bite location, host factors, and local wound care. Most infections caused by mammalian bites are polymicrobial, with mixed aerobic and anaerobic species. The clinical presentation and appropriate treatment of infected bite wounds vary according to the causative organisms. Human bite wounds have long had a bad reputation for severe infection and frequent complication. However, recent data demonstrate that human bites occurring anywhere other than the hand present no more of a risk for infection than any other type of mammalian bite. The increased incidence of serious infections and complications associated with human bites to the hand warrants their consideration and management in three different categories: occlusional/simple, clenched fist injuries, and occlusional bites to the hand. This article reviews dogs, cat, and human bite wounds, risk factors for complications, evaluation components, bacteriology, antimicrobial susceptibility patterns, and recommended treatments. Epidemiology, clinical presentation, and treatment of infections caused by Pasteurella multocida, Capnocytophaga canimorsus, Eikenella corrodens, and rhabdovirus (rabies only) receive particular emphasis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bites and Stings / complications
  • Bites and Stings / epidemiology*
  • Bites and Stings / microbiology
  • Bites and Stings / therapy
  • Bites, Human / complications
  • Bites, Human / epidemiology*
  • Bites, Human / microbiology
  • Bites, Human / therapy
  • Cats*
  • Dogs*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Rabies / transmission
  • United States / epidemiology