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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