Are Cat Bites Dangerous?
15 June, 2015
Our loveable cats can sometimes get a little rough by either scratching or biting us. While this is all fun and games, if the bite is merely on the surface and there is no blood drawn, you do not have to be concerned. However, it you are bleeding, there are some steps you should take to avoid infection as cat bites can be harmful if left untreated.
Some cat bites are not harmful
The punctures or bites from cat usually seal over, trapping bacteria from the cat’s mouth under your skin where they can readily multiply. A similar type of injury happens with cat scratches when their extremely sharp, curved nails penetrate deep into the skin, essentially injecting bacteria deep into the puncture wound. Depending on the location and depth of the wound, the bacteria can spread in the surrounding tissues. And the teeth are very sharp so it’s important to see if the skin is broken.
Cat bites are most likely to involve the hands and face, but are less destructive and life threatening than dog bites. However, cats’ narrow sharp teeth cause deeper puncture wounds than dogs and tend to carry a higher risk of infection and abscess.
If you are bit by a cat, immediately wash the wound under running water and treat it
- Wash your hands thoroughly, or put on rubber gloves before beginning treatment.
- If the bite is bleeding, apply pressure directly onto the area using a clean dry cloth. Continue applying pressure until the bleeding stops.
- If the bite is not bleeding or is only bleeding slightly, wash the area for several minutes using antibacterial soap and water. Use running water if possible.
- Make certain to rinse all of the soap out of the wound.
- Sterilize the area with dine, or soak it in solution of peroxide and warm water or Epsom salts.
- Apply an antibiotic ointment or cream to the site, making sure to coat the area completely.
- Cover the bite with a clean sterile bandage
Keep an eye on the bite area over the next two days for any signs of infection.
Cat bites can be dangerous if left untreated
The reason that cat bites are more dangerous than people have previously thought has to do with the infections that can be caused by the common house cat. A cat’s mouth contains nearly the same amount of bacteria that a dog’s mouth contains. But it is the sharp teeth that cats possess, which punctures the skin and leaves it vulnerable to infections.
An aggressive bacteria known as Pasteurella multocida is the main cause of infection from a cat bite. This bacteria is found in the mouth of around ninety percent of cats in good health, and amoxicillin is commonly used to treat it.
Common Cat Bite Infection Symptoms
There are many symptoms that a cat bite is becoming infected. If you have any concerns at all, you should discuss them with your doctor.
Redness: One of the first symptoms that your bite may be getting infected is redness around the bite. This can vary from light pink to a dark, angry-looking crimson red. If you see that the area is getting red, it is important to watch for any spreading of redness outward to the rest of the body. This could indicate a case of blood poisoning.
Heat: Whether or not the bite begins to redden, you will want to check it often to make sure it is not warmer than the other parts of your body. As your body sends antibodies to fight infection, it causes the temperature around the infected area to heat up even before the area turns red.
Odor: Some bites may begin to have an unusual odor. It may be difficult to detect at first, but the wound may smell yeasty or strong if left untreated.
Pus or oozing: Have the wound looked at immediately if you begin to see pus oozing. Sometimes an infected bite can abscess and actually puff up with a growth that looks like a large pimple or boil. This will eventually pop and drain, but a doctor should look at the wound.
Fever: If an infection is left too long, it can actually make you sick. You may begin to run a fever, and the fever can go quite high as the infection progresses.
Don’t make the mistake of ignoring a bite wound. Cats, like all animals, carry bacteria in their mouths that can lead to infections. Make sure you clean the wound properly, cover it to prevent more bacteria from gaining entry and call your family doctor about having the bite examined. Getting bitten by a cat is a fairly common occurrence, but, as always, it’s best to consult your physician to make sure the bite is treated properly and has not caused an infection.
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