You are brushing your cat's long hair and suddenly the comb gets entangled in a mat. Suddenly, out of the blue your cat turns his head and bites your hand. The bite causes a deep puncture wound that starts to bleed. You do not pay much attention to it, since you have been scratched and bitten before.
Instead, cat bites do require attention. Actually they require much more attention than any other type of wound. What appears like a simple puncture wound on the surface really is the tip of the iceberg. The reason behind this is the fact that a cat's mouth is full of bacteria. In particular, the bacteria Pasteurella multocida seems to be the one creating most of the problems. So a cat bite may be compared to a subcutaneous injection of harmful bacteria.
Each year many cat bite victims are hospitalized. This occurs because cat bite wounds easily get infected. Other things to consider is the age and health status of the victim, the time lapse before seeking professional care, the extent of the injury and the location of the injury. Such infections can be very serious causing sepsis. Sepsis depicts bacteria traveling in the bloodstream and causing major complications such as heart infection, meningitis, or pneumonia, all potentially fatal complications.
Other complications to consider, are cat scratch disease, tetanus and rabies.
Cat scratch disease is caused by a specific bacteria found in a cat's saliva called Bartonella henselae. People mostly affected are those with lowered immune systems. The disease usually runs its course on its own. Typical symptoms are: swollen lymph nodes, rash, fatigue and fever.
Tetanus can occur in any open wound. In particular, deep, puncture wounds may fester these harmful toxins causing tetanus. A tetanus shot is recommended and needs boostered every 10 years.
Rabies is a big concern, especially if you have been bit by a stray cat, however it is pretty rare in dogs and cats. Always check on the rabies vaccination status of the cat that bit you if possible. Rabies symptoms generally show after a few weeks or months post exposure. Symptoms begin with fever, headache, flu-like symptoms and then they progress as the central nervous system is involved causing anxiety, hallucinations, muscle spasms, fear of water.
Unfortunately, once symptoms take place there is no cure.
Here are a few signs of a bite wound causing trouble:
Skin appears red
Skin feels warm
Presence of pus
Swollen lymph glands
Surprisingly, the more amount of blood seeping out the wound the better. The blood helps flush out a good amount of bacteria, helping prevent infection. Treatment should start quickly, since once the wound closes it will trap all the harmful bacteria inside harboring an infection.
HOW TO TREAT A CAT BITE
1) Clean wound with warm soap and water. Anti-bacterial soap is preferable. It is important to clean as best as possible even if it hurts.
2) Apply antibiotic ointment or Betadine solution.
3) Watch for signs of infection.
Monitoring the wound is vital. There have been cases where infections have gone so far that amputation of a finger or hand was necessary. If the wound is pretty deep and the cat was a stray see a doctor immediately (infection can start as early as 12 hours post bite). You may require stitches, a tetanus shot (if you were not vaccinated against it), IV antibiotics or a course of oral antibiotics.
Of course, preventing a cat bite is vital. To better safe guard yourself against cat bite complications, try to keep your tetanus shot current, your cat current on rabies and simply watch your cat's body language carefully for signs of an impending bite coming your way..