Animal and human bites: Are stitches required?

An injury from animal and human bites requires closure or antibiotics. The decision to close a wound from animal and human bites using staples, stitches or skin adhesives depends on the following:

  • Type of animal
  • Location and size of the bite
  • Time that elapsed since the bite took place
  • Overall health of the individual

It is vital to ascertain if the wound should be sealed by the doctor. Remember that the risk for infection is increased if the wound is left untreated. Most wounds that necessitate treatment must be stitched, stapled or closed using skin adhesives within 6-8 hours after the injury.

  • Most cases of dog bites can be stitched, particularly if the wound is large.
  • Generally, cat bites do not require stitches. Most cat bites are puncture wound that are usually deep.
  • Human bites are not stitched unless on the ear or face.
    Animal or human bites

    Animal or human bites that bleed persistently after 15 minutes of placing pressure.

  • Bites on the face can be stitched safely. The risk of infection to the face is lower since it has good blood flow. This allows faster healing of the wound if stitched as soon as possible after a bite.
  • Animal or human bites on the foot or hand are not stitched. There is high risk for infection and stitching will only increase the risk.

When to seek medical care for animal or human bites?

  • Bites bigger than 6.5 mm deep, have jagged edges or gapes open.
  • Deep bites that involve the fat, bone, muscle or other deep structures
  • Deep bites over a big joint particularly if the bite opens when the joint is moved or if pulling apart the borders of the bite exposes fat, bone, muscle or joint structures.
  • Deep bites on the fingers or hand
  • Bites on the lips, face or any area where scarring might be an issue. Bites on the eyelids often require sutures for aesthetic and functional reasons.
  • Bites that are longer than 20 mm that are deep than 6.5 mm when the borders are pulled apart.
  • Animal or human bites that bleed persistently after 15 minutes of placing pressure.

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on animal and human bites is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to properly manage animal and human bites with wound care, register for a first aid and CPR course with Saskatoon First Aid.

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