If you have a dog or cat bite this summer, what’s the most important thing to look for?
Most people believe that, as long as the pets have their shots, there’s no danger. The problem is—that isn’t true.
According to the CDC, of the 5 million dog bites in the U.S. each year, only 880,000 seek emergency medical attention. There are many more that seek help after a few days, but that number is unknown.
Many of these bites are far from minor—reconstructive surgery is required in more than 30,000 victims each year, and 20 people die from these bites.
Cats are not to be ignored—even though their bites account for fewer than half those of dogs, they pose their own unique threats.
Lets consider some common misconceptions about dog and cat bites:
- Human bites are worse than cat bites, and cat bites are worse than dog bites.
- The fact is that all of them are bad and should be taken seriously. Just because dogs don’t carry the same bacteria as cats, makes them no less dangerous.
- If a dog or cat is up to date with its shots, they’re safe
- It’s good to know that the pet that bit you doesn’t have rabies, but they still have the ability and likelihood to cause infection.
- If it’s a neighbor’s pet, there is no need to contact Animal Control authorities.
- Although it may be uncomfortable to do so, Animal Control should be contacted with any dog bite, and most cat bites even if it’s a neighbor’s pet. The records will be examined and the need to quarantine determined.
- Minor bites aren’t usually deep enough to cause problems.
- Dog have very strong jaws, capable of easily exerting 450 pounds of force. Although their teeth are relatively dull, their bites crush and tear tissues, causing considerable trauma and risk of infection.
- Cats have less powerful jaws, but their teeth are incredibly sharp and thin, allowing them to go deep into the tissues, carrying bacteria all the way in.
- Cat Scratch Fever is a serious infection caused by a bacterium known as Bartonella, present on the claws and teeth of the feline persuasion. Cats are recognized at the natural reservoir of this bacterium.
- Cat Scratch occurs from one to two weeks after the bite or scratch. It causes swelling and tenderness of lymph nodes as well as fever, malaise and chills. This should be evaluated by a healthcare provider and treated with antibiotics.
- You don’t put stitches in a dog bite anyway, so why see the doctor?
- Although there was a time when we didn’t suture dog bites—that is no longer the case. Dog bites that are large should be surgically evaluated, debrided, and possibly repaired.
- Tetanus immunization should be given if this is out of date
- Antibiotics are also required.
According to the CDC, a medical professional should evaluate any dog or cat bite that has broken the skin, torn the tissues, or if there is pain at or near the site. If there is only minor abrasion, watchful waiting may be appropriate.
Seek medical help if there is pain, redness, warmth, swelling, drainage or pus evident. Attention should also be sought if a red streak becomes evident from the wound site and spreads toward the body.
Also, the rabies immunization status of the pet must be determined immediately. Rabies immunization must be considered for the victim if the status of the animal’s immunity for rabies is unknown or absent.
In summary, don’t ignore a dog or cat bite. They can cause serious infections that are difficult to cure if initially untreated.
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