November 2009


Management of mammalian bites

Volume 38, No.11, November 2009 Pages 868-874

Claire Dendle

David Looke


Mammalian bites are a significant public health problem in Australia, with the majority of bites coming from dogs. Complications include tissue damage from the bite itself, infection and post-traumatic stress disorder.


This article describes the assessment and management of mammalian bites in the Australian general practice setting based on a PubMed search of the English language literature from the years 1966 to present.


General practitioners need to be familiar with the treatment of animal bites, pitfalls in management, and the need to educate patients on ways to avoid future bite injuries. Meticulous wound cleaning, irrigation, exploration and debridement is essential to bite wound healing. Recognition of complicating fractures with imaging is important. Risk of infection differs among animal species, although most infected bite wounds are polymicrobial.

Australia has one of the highest incidences of pet ownership in the world1 with the rate of dog ownership by household between 35–42%.2,3 Mammalian bites, in particular dog bites, are common. In Australia, it has been estimated that approximately 2% of the population is bitten by a dog annually, of which 100 000 will require treatment and 13 000 will seek treatment in a hospital.4

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