UMEM Educational Pearls

There is no standardized national reporting of dog bites in the US. Based on the reported figures, it is estimated that 2% of Americans are bitten annually, and children are affected disproportionately. With kids, it's usually the family dog, and occurs at home.

To avoid infection, usually from Pasturella species, many of us were taught never to primarily repair dog bites by suturing, and to always prescribe prophylactic antibiotic coverage with amoxicillin-clavulanate. However, the literature recommends otherwise in certain cases.

Bite wounds to the face and hands should have special considerations.  In general, face wounds heal with lower rates of infection, but provide the greatest concern for cosmetic appearance.  Hand wounds have notoriously higher rates of infection.  

The latest recommendations for dog bites are as follows:

1. All dog bites should be copiously irrigated under high pressure.

2. Dog bites to the face should be primarily repaired when <8 hours old, as infection rates are not significantly different and cosmesis is greatly improved. 

3. Injuries to the hands should be left open, unless function is in jeopardy or there are neurovascular concerns.

4.  Prophylactic antibiotics do not always have to be prescribed, especially in low risk patients.  Examples of high risk patients include, but are not limited to: primarily repaired bites, injuries in the hand, >8 hours old, deep or macerated or multiple bites, and the immunocompromised.


Paschos NK et al. Primary closure versus non-closure of dog bite wounds. A randomised controlled tira. Injury 2014 45(1): 23l7-40

Chen, HH et al.  Analysis of Pediatric Facial Dog Bites. Cranomaxillofac Trauma Reconstr. 2013 Dec; 6(4):225-232

Ellis, R; Ellis, C (2014). "Dog and cat bites"American Family Physician90 (4): 239–43.