Animal Bites

Animal Bites

Basic Information image


Clinical Presentation of Humans

Incidence in Humans

Ferret bites

• Ferret teeth are slender but extremely sharp, easily penetrating skin. Ferret bites are not as severe as cat bites because of their smaller size; only one case of hand infection (due to recurrent Mycobacterium bovis) has been reported following a ferret bite in a 12-year-old boy. The true incidence of ferret bites is unknown. During an 11-month period in Arizona, the ratio of reported bites to the estimated pet population was 0.3% for ferrets compared with 0.4% for cats and 2.2% for dogs.

• In the 1980s and 1990s, ferrets were demonized, and numerous U.S. animal and veterinary organizations were opposed to keeping ferrets as pets because of their alleged unpredictable behavior and potential for rabies transmission. Since 2000, this has changed, and ferrets are considered “domesticated pets.” However, California, Hawaii, New York City, and Washington, DC, still prohibit the sale or ownership of pet ferrets.

• The aspect of ferret behavior that concerned authorities was the unpredictability and unprovoked nature of many reported attacks. However, reports of severe injuries caused by ferrets are rare. In a 1986 review of 24 cases compiled by the California and Colorado state health departments, 10 were infants younger than 6 months old, many of whom were attacked while sleeping. In a few cases, attacks on infants, especially to the face, were severe, resulting in loss of ear and nose tissue. Attacks on sleeping infants are similar to those by wild rats and strongly suggest poor socioeconomic conditions of victims. Children who have recently finished feeding from a bottle have been bitten, suggesting that the smell of milk or formula may have prompted the attack.

• Concern about rabies is no longer a major issue because a vaccine (Imrab3, Merial) for ferrets has been available since 1990. The rabies concern was based on the tendency of ferrets to escape, approach rabies-infected wildlife, and develop rabies after returning home. The overall incidence of rabies in U.S. pet ferrets was 23 reported cases from 1960 to 2000 (0.6 cases per year). There has not been a case of rabies transmission from a ferret to a human.

• A 2007 study looking at laboratory ferrets being adopted as pets found a 91% success rate. Ferrets with limited socialization had less chance of making good pets, and behavioral issues (e.g., nipping, failure to litter train) were the most common reasons for not keeping the ferret.

Rabbit bites

• Bites from rabbits are rare, although rabbits of any age or gender (more frequent in intact rabbits) can show aggression to humans. Territorial issues motivate most rabbits to attack humans (e.g., rabbits confined to a small cage or hutch may attack when an owner tries to move the rabbit, clean the area, or replenish the feed). Rabbits usually attack a hand when it is placed into the cage, but in large areas where a rabbit has free range, the feet may be assailed. When danger is impending, the natural defense of rabbits is to run away (i.e., flight), but if a rabbit is confined and is unable to run away, it is more likely to defend itself (i.e., fight) by lunging at a person to bite or by standing up on its hind legs and attacking with its front limbs. Socialized house rabbits are known to nip at owners’ feet and ankles when they are being ignored. This is not a form of aggression but may be misinterpreted as such by owners.

• Although Pasteurella multocida is a common infection of rabbits, only three reports have described isolation of Pasteurella multocida from patients after a rabbit bite (two cases involving finger and leg) or licking of a kerion celsi (an occipital or cranial dermatopathy secondary to tinea infection). In contrast, Pasteurella canis is the most common pathogen in infections from dog bites, and Pasteurella multocida is the most common isolate of cat bites. No other rabbit bite infections have been reported.

Rat bites

• Bacteria grow in one-third of all rat bite wounds. Rats have a 14% carriage rate of Pasteurella spp. The risk of any type of infection after a rat bite is estimated as 1% to 10%.

• The biggest risk from rat bites is rat bite fever (RBF). Because rats have become popular as pets, children now account for more than 50% of RBF cases in the United States, followed by laboratory personnel and pet shop employees. The risk of RBF is unknown, as is the infectious dose of both Streptobacillus moniliformis and Spirillum minus for humans (see Rat Bite Fever).

• In recent years, transmission by pet rats of cowpox to other host species, including humans, has emerged in Europe. Cowpox is found primarily in Europe, where the natural hosts are thought to be small wild rodents, from which the virus occasionally spreads to domestic cats, cows, and humans.

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Jul 28, 2016 | Posted by in EXOTIC, WILD, ZOO | Comments Off on Animal Bites

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