What should you do when you are bitten by a dog or cat? The type of wound and whether the animal is known, wild, or a stray affects what care is needed and when the help is sought, whether immediately or days later.

Animal bite wounds vary from a puncture to lacerations and crushing fractures and avulsions. Care can be sought from minutes after the event to days later, depending on the type and extent of the injury. These can vary greatly.

Dog Bites

The majority of domestic animal bites are from dogs. The jaws of a medium or large dog have bone-crushing potential. There is a 15-20% chance of infection from broken skin resulting from a dog bite. Aside from streptococcus or staphylococcus infections, dogs may also incur Pasteurella multocida, capnocytophaga canimorses (rare but especially dangerous), klebsiella, and enterobacteria.

MRSA becomes a concern only if the in the past, the dog has gotten the infection from the human he associates with. In that way only, the dog can be a carrier.

Cat Bites

On the one hand, cat bites have a slightly higher rate of infection, but on the other hand, cats are less likely to bite and inflict a wound. There is a 50% chance of infection developing from a cat bite. A papule forms at the site of the wound and a syndrome develops known as cat scratch fever. Aside from the strep or staph infections similar to dogs, cats may transmit Pasteurella multicida, clostridium, and wolinella bacteria.

Signs of Infection

Non-facial bites are more likely to cause infection. The wound should immediately be washed with either sterile water or saline.

Signs of infection include:

  • Erythema (redness) surrounding the entry site
  • Burning, throbbing around the wound and localized warmth
  • Pus-like drainage
  • A bad odor emanating from the site (malodorous)
  • Fever
  • Swelling, a result of trauma and may not always indicate infection

Antibiotics will be prescribed depending on the type of infection assessed.

Dog puncture marks on a leg

Getting Wound Treatment

Immediately flush the wound with sterile saline if possible, or clean water. People with impaired immunity or limited ability should always seek treatment regardless of whether the animal is known to them or if it’s a wild animal.

These conditions might include those who have:

  • Diabetes
  • Leukemia
  • Organ transplant recipients
  • Absence of spleen
  • Chemotherapy treatment
  • Steroid therapy
  • HIV or AIDS
  • Those over 50 years of age

The owner bitten by his or her own animal knows the vaccination history, so rabies shouldn’t be a concern. If the animal isn’t vaccinated but is healthy, it must be quarantined for 10 days to evaluate for rabies. Bites by unknown, unavailable cats or dogs usually result in a series of painful rabies shots for the individual who has been bitten.

Likewise, if the human’s tetanus is up to date, that won’t be needed unless 5 years from the last shot has passed.

Avoiding Cat and Dog Bites

Dogs and cats usually don’t attack unless provoked by intention or by accident. Bites are not unique to any one breed.

Accelerate the Training & Rehabilitation of Dogs with Aggression & Reactivity Issues

These are some things you can do to avoid being bitten by a dog or cat:

  • Don’t approach an animal while it eats
  • Don’t reach out suddenly to unknown animals
  • Avoid rough play without protective clothing
  • Don’t make direct eye contact with a dog
  • Do not invade the space of a female nursing her young

You may also be interested in Top Tips For Socializing A Puppy With Ease.

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What To Do After You have Been Bitten By A Dog