During contact with animals, the fingers and hands are highly susceptible to bites. Although bites from wild animals do occur, bites from dogs and cats are much more common and very dangerous. Even though the risk of rabies from a dog or cat bite is rare, the risk of developing another infection is still present – even if the animal has been vaccinated – because of the presence of bacteria in the animal’s saliva. The bacteria enter the body through the bite and can cause an infection in the skin, tendon sheaths, joints, bones, or bloodstream.
Dog bites account for the majority of domestic animal bites each year. Dog bite injuries typically result in lacerations or crushing of the skin and deeper tissues. Bites by larger breeds can also cause tissue loss and broken bones. Although dog bites typically cause more tissue damage than cat bites, the risk of infection is relatively low, especially if treated quickly with proper wound care. If there is significant skin, soft tissue, and muscle injury, the risk of infection is much higher and the bite victim should seek prompt medical attention.
Cats account for a small percentage of domestic animal bites each year, but cause the majority of bite-related infections. Bites from a cat may seem superficial, but their long teeth can push bacteria deep inside the skin. Sometimes a tooth may break, leaving a small piece of tooth in the wound. The bacteria in a cat’s mouth is very aggressive and can result in a severe infection within hours of a bite.