Although the majority of animal bites occur with dogs and cats that are vaccinated against rabies, there always remains a high risk for infection due to the harmful bacteria found in the animal’s saliva. Many people would be surprised to learn that such bites require the attention of an orthopedic specialist for treatment.

Dog and Cat bites are often seen on an individual’s dominant hand usually affecting the fingers. Young adults and children between the age of 2 and 19 are more likely to suffer from animal bites. Oftentimes there can be little to no signs of damage after you or your child is bitten by an animal, and thus the potential effects remain misdiagnosed and inadequately treated.

Animal bites can have adverse effects on your joints, tendons, muscles, nerves, blood vessels and bones. If left untreated, these bites can lead to a variety of musculoskeletal conditions, including arthritis, tendinitis, structural damage and much more.

It is a common misconception that dog bites are more serious, when in fact both dogs and cats can cause severe damage. Dogs are more capable of crushing and tearing the musculoskeletal structure of your hand, while the damage caused by a cat is more subtle. Not only can a cat’s teeth penetrate your tendons and even your bones, leading to a highest risk of infection, but also the wounds close almost instantaneously and leave the bacteria inside.

No matter the animal and no matter the severity, it is always important to see an orthopedic physician as soon as possible. Although your family doctor can help reduce the more prominent symptoms of an animal bite, an orthopedic specialist will be able to adequately assess the extent of the damage and establish an appropriate treatment plan to avoid complications.