Phone: 817-697-4038 Fax: 877-409-3962


If you’ve suffered lasting pain or deformity due to an animal bite, please Schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists as soon as possible.

What causes animal bites?

Animal bites result from various factors, primarily related to interactions between humans and animals. Causes include provoked incidents where humans may unintentionally threaten or disturb animals, triggering defensive behaviors such as biting. Unintentional encounters, such as stepping on or startling animals, can also lead to defensive bites.

Aggressive behavior from animals due to fear, protection of territory, or during mating seasons can cause bites. Predatory instincts in wild animals may result in bites when hunting or scavenging for food. In domestic settings, inadequate training or handling of pets can lead to behavioral issues, increasing the likelihood of biting incidents.

Additionally, diseases or infections in animals, such as rabies, can alter behavior and increase the risk of aggressive interactions, including biting. Understanding these causes helps in implementing preventive measures, such as proper animal training, vaccination against diseases, and responsible interaction with wildlife, to minimize the occurrence of animal bites and ensure safety for both humans and animals alike.

What are the symptoms of animal bites?

Animal bites inflict physical damage to tissues and can introduce infection. The physical trauma caused by tooth puncture or tearing soft tissue and breaking bone can result in significant tissue damage. Symptoms of infection include redness, swelling, warmth of the tissues, generalized fever, purulent (thick white) drainage, swollen lymph nodes in the armpits, and sweating.

Rabies, a disease of the nervous system, results from a virus carried by mammals including bats, raccoons, dogs, cats, and humans. If untreated, rabies proves fatal. Immediate medical attention is necessary if there is suspicion that an unvaccinated animal has bitten you. Initial rabies symptoms may include nausea/vomiting, lack of appetite, fever, headache, and fatigue. Later symptoms include difficulty swallowing, disorientation, eventual paralysis, and coma.

Venomous snake bites necessitate immediate emergency attention. Dial 9-1-1 or proceed to the nearest emergency room if a snake has bitten you. If feasible, recall the color markings of the snake, and refrain from attempting self-treatment for the snake bite. Antivenom can be administered for snake bites at the hospital, and supportive care will be offered in case of “envenomation syndrome”. Seeking medical care is crucial in the event of a snake bite, even if you initially feel fine, as not all venoms act immediately but can lead to neurological and life-threatening symptoms.

Diagnosis and Treatment


Healthcare providers must conduct a clinical examination of an animal bite to identify the extent of damage caused by the bite. Additionally, bloodwork and imaging such as X-ray may be necessary depending on the findings of the clinical examination. More advanced imaging, such as CT or MRI, may also be required.


Healthcare providers must treat damage to tissues and infection. If the damage is not extensive, natural healing may occur. However, if there is damage to vessels, tendons, or bone, surgery may be necessary to repair the structures as needed. Rehabilitation following injury may require hand therapy. Immobilization is prescribed based on injuries and treatment provided.

To treat infection, healthcare providers perform irrigation and cleaning of the wound as first-line treatment. They prescribe a course of antibiotics to address the infection. Severe infections may necessitate IV antibiotics and hospitalization. If rabies cannot be ruled out or is suspected, healthcare providers administer a series of vaccinations.


Further Reading:

AAOS- American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons animal bites OrthoInfo webpage.–conditions/animal-bites/

AAOS- American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons rabies OrthoInfo webpage.–conditions/rabies/

ASSH- American Society of Hand Surgery animal bite Handcare webpage.

ASSH-American Society of Hand Surgery snakebite Handcare webpage.

ASSH- American Society of Hand Surgery infected animal bite Handcare webpage.


Sacks et al “Dog bites: how big a problem?” Published in Injury Prevention Journal 1996; 2: 52-54. 


If you have any questions for our Texas based orthopedic specialists, give us a call at 817-697-4038, or contact us over the web. Tele-medicine appointments are also available.