Animal bites most frequently occur in the home, from pets such as cats or dogs. These injuries can vary greatly in terms of severity, recovery timeline, and complications, depending on the location and depth of the bite. Regardless of the location, animals’ mouths are full of various bacteria that can lead to painful and occasionally dangerous infections if allowed to enter the soft tissue and blood vessels of the hand. Even shallow, superficial bites need to be cleaned extremely well as soon as possible to prevent this.
Depending on the location, animal bites can create damage or rupture to tendons and ligaments, and occasionally result in fractures. Young children and older adults, or those with multiple medical problems and/or brittle bones, are most susceptible to fractures. Your surgeon will assess the injury and discuss the most appropriate treatment strategies with you; this may or may not involve surgery.
Animal bites typically create wounds with jagged, uneven, irregular edges, and damage to multiple tissues. Because of this, bites can take a long time to heal. Persistent soreness and swelling is common. Your doctor may recommend hand therapy to expedite your recovery and minimize the chance of complications.