Animal Bites in Emergency Medicine Workup

Updated: Oct 07, 2021
  • Author: Alisha Perkins Garth, MD; Chief Editor: Joe Alcock, MD, MS  more...
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Laboratory Studies

Fresh bite wounds without signs of infection do not need to be cultured. Infected bite wounds should be cultured to help guide future antibiotic therapy.

Other laboratory tests are indicated as the patient's condition dictates (eg, complete blood cell count and blood cultures for patients with sepsis).

If Capnocytophaga canimorsus sepsis is suspected, examine the peripheral smear for the organism, a bacillus.


Imaging Studies

Radiography is indicated if any concerns exist that deep structures are at risk (eg, hand wounds; deep punctures; crushing bites, especially over joints). Occult fractures or osteomyelitis may be discovered. Radiographs may find foreign bodies in the wound (eg, teeth).

Children who have been bitten in the head should be examined for bony penetration with plain films or a computed tomography (CT) scan. If the child was shaken, consider cervical spine evaluation.