If a dog attacks you, one of the most likely places to suffer a bite is on your hand. Bites to the hands may not seem as bad as a bite to the face or body, but hand injuries can be extremely painful and prone to infection.

When an animal bites you, any bacteria in its mouth contaminates the wound. In an area like the torso, there aren’t many joints or places for the bacteria to hide. In the hands, there are many fragile bones, tendons and joints that can hide the infection, putting you at risk of a serious infection if the wound isn’t properly treated or if you don’t get the antibiotics you need. An infection in your hand can be mildly uncomfortable or spread and become life threatening, depending on the type of infection and how long it has festered.

Bites to the hands are most commonly seen when children are involved. Those between 5 and 14 may reach out to pet an animal only to be bitten a few moments later. Infections are more likely to develop if you’re bitten by a cat, because of a cat’s long teeth. The teeth cause puncture wounds, which close over quickly and trap bacteria inside. Dogs can cause infections as well, though they are less common. Around 1 percent of dog bites end up infected and land people in their local hospitals, whereas up to six percent of cat bites result in the need for hospitalization.

If you are bitten by a neighboring pet or even a stay whose owner you’ve located, you can pursue a claim against them. Animals need to be locked away from people who they may cause harm, and owners who know their animals are dangerous should be held accountable.

Source: The Hand Center of Western Massachusetts, “Bite Wounds of the Hand,” accessed July 21, 2017