Bites and Scratches
Most people are aware that they should never try to touch a wild animal. Although adorable, squirrels, rabbits, foxes etc. (as well as feral cats and unknown dogs) should never be approached. They can become scared easily and will fight off the “unknown” by biting and scratching. Several diseases can be spread such as bacterial infections, Tetanus and even Rabies.
But did you know that your own pet is a risk as well? We all love our furry family members, but often times we forget that even though they are family, there is still a potential for danger. You can do all the right things and vaccinate your pet regularly and still be at risk for several diseases. Even minor scratches or bites can become serious quickly if not treated. The mouths and nail beds of both dogs and especially cats can carry all kinds of disease. Bartonella, or cat-scratch fever, is one of the most common bacterial diseases transferred from cat bites and scratches. Tetanus also is a common bacterial infection from dog and cat scratches and bites as well as numerous other bacterial infections. Even if the bite or scratch does not look bad, it can become worse quickly.
What do I do following a bite or scratch?
(current recommendations from human medical references)
If the bite or scratch is bleeding heavily, apply pressure with a clean towel or gauze until the bleeding has stopped.
If he wound is not bleeding heavily or once bleeding has subsided, clean thoroughly with soap and water and hold it under running water for several minutes.
After cleaning, dry the wound, apply antibiotic ointment and a clean bandage or gauze.
Call your doctor if the bite or scratch broke the skin, even if it is small. You might need antibiotics and /or a tetanus shot and in some cases a series of rabies shots. A bite or scratch on the face, hand or foot is particularly prone to infection and should be evaluated by your doctor as soon as possible.
If you’ve been bit or scratched by a wild or unfamiliar animal, note the location of the animal. It may need to be captured, confined and observed for signs of Rabies. Do not try to capture the animal yourself. Contact your local Animal Control or Game Warden.
Seek Immediate Attention If: (this means an Urgent Care Clinic or Emergency Room)
*If the bite or scratch is on the face, hand, foot or near a joint.
*If the wound does not stop bleeding after 10 minutes of continuous pressure.
*If the wound appears, deep, large or severe.
*If the animal was a stray or wild.
*if the bite or scratch becomes red, hot, swollen or increasingly painful.
*If you have a weakened immune system or medical condition that may make a bacterial infection more severe.
*If you are not up to date on your Tetanus immunizations. (Tetanus boosters should be given every 10 years or if you’ve sustained a wound more than 5 years from your last immunization)
*Due to the high risk of infection your doctor should be consulted with any and every bite!
An example of the dangers of cat scratches and bites.
Several hours after bite/scratch Next day after bite/scratch