Have you ever heard that it’s important to see a veterinarian any time a cat’s tooth punctures your skin, even if it seems like a minor injury? It’s true, and here’s why.
The Skin Is Great at Healing
A cat’s tooth is small and sharp, so when it punctures a person’s skin, it leaves quite a small wound but a deep one. The cat’s tooth deposits bacteria under the skin. Because the surface of the wound is tiny, the skin does its job and heals over fast. That seals in the bacteria and allows them to sit there, safe and cozy, multiplying like crazy.
Cats’ Mouths Carry Bad Bacteria
Cats carry high numbers of different types of bacteria in their mouths, and one of them, in particular, is dangerous—Pastuerella multocida.
Bacteria Spreads to Surrounding Tissue
Once the skin heals over and the bad bacteria multiply like crazy, they also spread to nearby tissue, causing cellulitis, which is infection and inflammation. Cellulitis can cause long-term damage.
If the bacteria gets into the blood stream, it causes septicemia, which is life-threatening.
If bacteria gets into joints, it can cause permanent damage there.
Symptoms of Infected Cat Bites in People
People with infected cat bite wounds will usually see the immediate area redden and swell. It may be warm to the touch. The affected area can spread to close by tissues, and affected joints can get sore and stiff.
People may develop a fever and flu-like symptoms of aches and pains. The infection can be severe, especially in very young, elderly, or immunosuppressed people.
When infection has gotten into a joint or caused severe tissue damage, surgery may be necessary.
If you receive a cat bite, wash it under running water right away. If it’s bleeding, apply pressure or a bandage to control it.
See a doctor as soon as possible. You need to do this even for mild bite wounds because they can result in the severe consequences listed above. Additionally, sometimes the tip of a cat’s tooth, especially if the kitty is young, may break off inside the wound, causing even more trouble.
If possible, determine the rabies vaccination status of the cat that bit you. If the cat’s rabies vaccination is not current, your doctor may recommend that you undergo rabies prophylaxis. This, too, is best if done in a timely manner.
Cat bites can be very dangerous. This article recommends seeking medical attention right away. I learned this the hard way. Many years ago a stray cat got into my garage and had a litter of kittens. My late husband said, let them alone until they are older. Well once they got comfortable – they would not leave. We could not get anyone to come out to remove the cats so mu late husband decided to get crates and take them out himself. BIG MISTAKE! He did get them into carriers but his hands were all scratched and bitten by wild cats. Almost immediately his right hand literally blew up and turned “angry” red. Off to the hospital where he was immediately aditted. It took over 10 days of intravenous antibiotics to resolve the massive infection. Please take these scratches and bites very seriously. If the skin is broken and bacterial deposited into the lower layers of the skin, the resultant infection could become life threatening. Please be careful.
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