When people think of dangerous animal bites, they rarely think of cats first.
Dogs are usually the first to be suspected as the culprit, but cat bites carry a much greater risk of becoming infected.
There are a variety of reasons that a cat will lash out and bite, but all injuries that puncture the skin should be treated as serious regardless of whether or not the cat intended any harm.
Why Are Cat Bites Potentially Dangerous?
There are several factors that put victims of a cat bite at a high risk of infection. Cats have small but sharp teeth that are like needles, which can penetrate the skin and tissue more deeply.
Bites that occur on or around a joint are at an even greater chance of becoming infected because the cat’s teeth are able to penetrate the membrane sheath that protects joints and tendons. Antibiotics have trouble reaching this area and, as a result, the bacteria grows rapidly without being controlled which can result in a cat bite infection.
Cat bites on the hand are at the greatest risk of infection and should be closely monitored. One third of bites on the hand result in hospitalization and some of those even require surgery to flush out the infection.
Hands tend to become infected more easily for a couple of reasons. The biggest reason is because there are numerous joints and tendons in the hand. Hands are also the most exposed to dirt and debris during a person’s daily routine.
Treating a Minor Cat Bite
Basic cat bite treatment can help greatly reduce the risk of infection. The first step for anyone who has been bitten by a cat is to examine the wound and stop any bleeding. Applying pressure with a clean dry bandage should reduce any bleeding within a few minutes.
Once the bleeding has been stopped, the wound should be cleaned with mild soap and water. Hydrogen peroxide can be applied to the bite to help remove any lingering dirt or bacteria and to further clean the wound. An over the counter, topical antibiotic ointment can be used to help prevent an infection from forming. The ointment should be applied as soon as the wound is cleaned and dry.
A bandage can be placed over the bite to protect the wound from any dirt and bacteria getting in it. The bandage should be changed several times a day, and antibiotic ointment should be reapplied each time. The bite should be closely monitored for any signs of infection. Anybody that is bitten should ensure that they have had a tetanus shot in the last seven years.
Treating a Bite That Becomes Infected
Infected cat bites can escalate quickly and the patient should not delay seeking professional medical attention. Signs of infection can be noticed as soon as a few hours after the bite occurs and should not be taken lightly. Redness and swelling immediately after being bitten are normal but should not become noticeably worse over the course of a few days. If the redness and swelling do become worse and fluid starts to drain from the bite, then a stronger course of antibiotics may be needed, and professional medical attention is likely required.
Cat bites that are seen in the emergency room or by a doctor are treated as serious because of the high chance of infection. Cat bite antibiotics that are typically prescribed by a doctor are augmetin or any other broad spectrum antibiotic that can address a variety of types of bacteria.
In more serious cases, surgery to flush the bacteria out of the tissue and intravenous antibiotics are needed to properly treat the bite.
Any cat bite can become seriously infected even if it does not seem to be that bad at first. All bites should be approached with caution and closely monitored for any signs of infection. If there is any question at all that a bite could possibly be infected, then professional medical attention is the best option and should be sought immediately.