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Infections Caused by Animal Bites

Written by Cooper and Friedman on May 17, 2017

animal bitesAnimal bites are a risk that come with having domesticated pets such as cats, dogs, birds, and reptiles. While animals can be tamed and often treated as part of the family, pet owners need to be aware that regardless of how tame their pets may seem – they still have instincts that may drive them to bite whether out of fear or in defense.

There are three types of animal bites that are most likely to lead to an infection: dog bites, cat bites, and wild animal bites. Cats and dogs are the two pets that are most responsible for animal bites. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, cat bites are much more likely to get infected than dog bites. About 10% of dog bites result in infection compared to upwards of 50% of cat bites.

Dog bite injuries represent around 90% of reported animal bites in the United States while cat bites make up 10%. Why is there such a huge difference in percentile? Experts think it is due to cats instinctively using claws over teeth in defense. Wild animal bites are extremely rare, but also extremely dangerous. Wild animals carry a risk in their bite that most tamed and cared for cats and dogs do not – rabies.

It is important to note that an infection will not result from an animal bite that doesn’t break the skin. Scrapes are at a minimal risk of infection while puncture wounds from cat bites are at the highest risk. Animal bites are prone to infections because they are polymicrobial – meaning they are full of multiple strains of bacteria – and are often placed on hands or fingers which the body has a harder time fighting off. While it is rare that a rabies infection will be the result of a house cat or dog bite, these bites are prone to spreading tetanus due to the polymicrobial nature of animal mouths.

Common Animal Bite Symptoms as described by Injury Attorneys

Animal bite infection symptoms are similar to other symptoms associated with infections. This includes:

  • Pain localized to the area
  • Redness, swelling, and inflammation at the site
  • Loss of feeling around the bite area
  • Fever, chills, or night sweats
  • Pus or fluid build-up around the wound
  • Difficulties breathing
  • Muscle tremors

It is important to know the signs of infections and seek medical attention immediately if the symptoms do not improve. If you were bitten by a wild animal or have not had a tetanus shot in the last 10 years, your risk of complications from an animal bite greatly increases. Follow along to learn more about symptoms and treatments available for the two most dangerous infections caused by animal bites.


These days, tetanus infections are extremely rare in the United States thanks to the tetanus vaccination. However, if an animal bite victim is not up-to-date with their tetanus vaccine then the infection can be devastating.

Tetanus is a bacterial infection that attacks the nervous system and causes muscles to tighten throughout the body. It is often referred to as “lockjaw” because muscle contractions often start in the neck and face. Tetanus is often associated with puncture wounds that occur from metal, but animal bites are another carrier of the bacteria.

Symptoms of the disease often start to show with 21 days of infection and include: hastened heart rate, high fever, profuse sweating, increased blood pressure, difficulty swallowing, and spasms. There is no cure for tetanus, so it is important that both children and adults stay updated with vaccinations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children should receive 5 shots by the age of 6 and that adults should get the vaccine every 10 years.


Rabies most often occurs from wild animal bites, but can occur from dog bites or cat bites if said animal has been infected with rabies. Dogs are the more common carrier of the disease out of the two because they are more often outside where they are exposed to wild animals. Rabies is life-threatening and attacks the central nervous system until it branches into one of two types: furious or paralytic.

Furious rabies causes people to act erratically and symptoms include: confusion, anxiety, salivating, inability to sleep, agitation, and the most commonly known – fear of water. Paralytic rabies takes a longer amount of time to set in and affect the victim, but is just as devastating. The infected individual will slowly become paralyzed before slipping into a coma and dying. Both forms of rabies can come from wild or domesticated animals and should be taken extremely seriously. It is important to keep your animals up-to-date on vaccinations and seek medical attention immediately if you have been bitten by an animal that is exhibiting signs of rabies.

What To Do If You Get An Infection from an Animal Bite

If you develop an infection that is not tetanus or rabies, a treated bite should start improving within 48 hours. If improvement is not obvious, revisit your doctor and develop a further treatment plan. It is extremely important to keep your own animals up-to-date on vaccinations and be aware that even animals who are vaccinated can carry life threatening diseases in their bites. Regardless of if animals are domesticated or tamed, they are still animals. Being aware of your surroundings, your actions, and the reactions of animals you know and do not know will help to keep you safe from being bitten.

To learn more about avoiding dog bite injuries, click here. For more information on animal bite infections, symptoms, causes, treatments, rabies, and tetanus, visit If you or someone you love has been the victim of an animal bite, you may benefit from talking with an experienced animal bite injury attorney. For a free animal bite case consultation, contact the Cooper & Friedman Law Offices by clicking here or calling 502-459-7555 today!

Posted Under: Personal Injury

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