Why Dog and Cat Bites Are Dangerous
The cat lies calmly on his lap, lets himself be petted, and purrs. A short time later: The cat should leave his cozy place. Something doesn’t suit him. He bites in a flash and catches the back of his hand. The wound hardly bleeds, but the hand swells turn red, and hurts. It doesn’t necessarily look dangerous for the cat owner – disinfect, cool, then it’ll be all over again. …
Cat Bites: Up to 50 Percent Become Infected
If doctors see such a bite wound, they are alarmed. Swelling, pain, redness, and restricted mobility mean: The area has become infected. And: there is probably an infection. “Approximately 50 percent of all cat bites become infected,” says Dr. Christoph Heidenreich, hand surgeon and senior physician in the department for hand and forearm surgery at the Murnau Accident Clinic.
Particularly Treacherous: Cat bites on The Hand
Cats have pointed and relatively long teeth that can penetrate deep into the tissue. The animals transport germs that are in their mouth and saliva into the wound. “Bites in the hand and wrist area are particularly easy to get infected,” explains Heidenreich. Here tendons and tendon sheaths lie close to the surface of the skin.
If the pet bites into these tissues with poor blood circulation, the bacteria may multiply before the immune system intervenes. The pathogens can also migrate along with the tendons to other parts of the body and, in the worst case, lead to blood poisoning. A bite in the hand can also inflame tendon sheaths, bone membranes, or joints. In the worst-case – regardless of the bite site – blood poisoning can even occur.
Dog bites are less likely to cause infections. “And just about 2 to 20 percent of dog bites become infected,” says Heidenreich. On the other hand, dogs can cause worse injuries. It can be particularly dangerous for children if they are bitten in the neck or face.
What We Need To Do After a Dog or Cat Bite
If the wound is on the face or neck, is it very large or deep, then you should definitely see a doctor. Anyone who has been bitten by a dog or cat should first thoroughly clean the wound and treat it with a disinfectant. A sterile wound dressing should then be placed over the injured area – preferably a compress and the dressing over it.
Anyone who has not had a refreshed tetanus vaccination within the last five years or is not sure about it should see a doctor because a new vaccination may be necessary. The same applies if you did not know the dog or cat and the animal may not have been immunized against rabies.
Life-threatening infections caused by tetanus ( tetanus ) and rabies are rare in Germany, “but they still play a major role in travel destinations like India,” says Heidenreich. You should therefore find out which vaccinations you will need in the country you are traveling to before you go on holiday.
Hand surgeon Heidenreich also advises: “After a cat bite, you should always consult a doctor because of the high risk of infection.” This is especially recommended for children and people with restricted immune systems.
The doctor can treat the wound and, if necessary, give an antibiotic. If the wound festers or if the injury is no longer minor, an operation is often necessary. Therefore, you should definitely watch the injury! If the area swells hurt, and reddens, see a doctor quickly. This is especially true if you develop a fever or a red line pulls away from the wound.
Do not play down a dog or cat bite. Cat bites in particular look inconspicuous and often hardly bleed. Better to see a doctor and have the wound assessed to avoid nasty consequences. Take your vaccination certificate with you and have the tetanus vaccination status checked.