So you have been bitten by a cat, what now?
Risks of infection – An important thing to remember is that all cats have dirty mouths and nails. If you get a puncture wound from a bite or scratch, it is almost certain that bacteria have now been transferred from the tooth or nail into your skin. These wounds can be small in size; the opening of the puncture can close over quickly trapping the bacteria deep into your tissue. It can lead to infection (often referred to as cat-scratch-disease) and, if not caught in time, can make the wound much, much worse.
Cleaning wound – If you have suffered a cat bite the first and most important thing to do is flush the wound immediately. Run the area under cool water as long as possible to try and remove as much bacteria as you can. The next step is to scrub the area with a wet sponge or soft cloth that has a disinfectant applied. It ensures the surrounding surface area is clean as well as helping to drain even more bacteria from the wound. When bacteria from a wound spread to surrounding tissues, this can lead to a condition called cellulitis – inflammation of the subcutaneous connective tissue.
Wound care – It is always recommended that you visit a doctor as soon as possible after a bite from a cat. They will be able to assess the wound properly and prescribe necessary medications like antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs, and possibly recommend a tetanus booster. Although it is not ideal to stitch a bite wound closed, some wounds are serious enough to require this. They may place a bandage over the wound to stop any new bacteria from entering.
What to expect during the healing phase – Wounds typically take 5-7 days to heal and usually become itchy, red, and inflamed during this phase. These symptoms can be normal and will subside after a few days, but it’s very important to ensure the redness is not spreading further away from the wound. If this is the case, you need to notify your doctor and seek out treatment as soon as possible. It is also important to remember that during the healing phase, wounds are delicate and can be easily reinjured. Take care to not to get your bandage wet as this results in something called “strike-through” – a passage allowing bacteria to enter through the cloth back into the wound. Bandage changes may be required for a serious injury that needs more time to heal.
Always remember to consult your doctor if you have suffered an injury from a cat bite. If you have a question regarding cat bites, give us a call at 902.477.4040 for more information.
Written by: Barbara Hagan, RVT