Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Never Underestimate the Danger of Cat Bites!

Having been in the veterinary field for many years I have suffered my share of cat bites. Mostly there is no complications, but sometimes the next day you can have a great deal of swelling and express pus out of the wound. All too often, people ignore the bites and sometimes end up in the hospital.

Cat bites and scratches can be fatal to pet birds. The Pasteurella multocida bacteria can go systemic reapidly and a bird who looks fine after a bite or scratch can be dead in the next couple days. That is why whenever a bird has had an altercation with a cat I always put them on antibiotics preventatively.

Here is an article about the danger of cat bites in people, from the AVMA Pet Health SmartBrief.

Cat bite puts woman in the hospital with a serious infection

© Juniors Bildarchiv GmbH / Alamy - A cat that bites and scratches while play wrestling may not be getting enough of the right sort of play.

With sleepy eyes and a comically kinked tail, Sammy does not look like a dangerous character. But Sammy put me in the hospital.
For four days as I lay in that bed, hour after hour, hooked up to an intravenous cocktail of antibiotics, I had plenty of time to rue the stupidity that put me there.

Sammy bit me. Although I didn’t take it seriously at the time, a bite from a small cat can be a big problem, thanks to the nature of the bite itself and the kinds of bacteria carried by cats and people. For some people, in fact, it can be deadly.

“A cat bite is nothing to trivialize,” said Nancy Peterson, cat programs manager at the Humane Society of the United States.

Up to 50 percent of cat bites become infected, said Princy N. Kumar, head of the infectious-diseases division at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. But, like me, many people don’t take the injury seriously enough.

“People underestimate” the danger, Kumar said, and don’t realize they should get a bite looked at right away. “They don’t realize, being bitten by a cat, you’ve got a 1-in-2 chance of getting infected.”
My first mistake was getting in the middle of a fight.

Sammy, a street cat who had just joined our family, did not like established resident Blue. When I heard a blood-curdling yowl from the spare bedroom late one night, I decided to remove one of the combatants.
When I reached down to pick him up him, Sammy wrapped his legs around my right arm and plunged his teeth into my wrist. Deep-red, venous blood ran out of two puncture wounds, and the area began to swell. I washed the wound well (after shrieking and dropping the cat), put some ice on it and kept it elevated for a while. I figured the swelling would be gone by morning.

The next day, my arm was puffy and I couldn’t move my fingers well. My wrist felt hot to the touch. I tried more ice and elevation.

That was my second mistake: minimizing the problem and treating the bite myself. A significant cat bite always requires medical intervention,

“If you got a really bad bite, you should get prophylactic antibiotics,” Kumar said. A light nip is not a problem, she said, but seek help if the cat has really sunk its teeth in — “if you see a puncture wound and blood coming out of it.”

Unlike dogs, which tend to deliver superficial, crushing bites that don’t penetrate far into tissue, cats inflict puncture wounds with their long teeth, which inject bacteria from the cat’s mouth and the environment deep into tissue.

And, Peterson said, “cats have a pretty potent bacteria.” While cats have a variety of microbes living in their mouths, the real trouble comes from Pasteurella multocida, a bacterium that can cause bad infections. One study found that 90 percent of domestic cats are carriers. Dogs also carry this bacteria, first isolated by Louis Pasteur and named after him, but the infection rate from their bites doesn’t come close to cats’ 50 percent. (Pasteurella is not the microbe that causes cat scratch disease, which is usually transmitted by kitten scratches and nips, and in most people causes only swollen lymph nodes, not severe local infection.).

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