Proper animal bite treatment is vital, as untreated wounds can result in localized infection, extensive scarring, nerve damage or a dangerous systemic infection like sepsis. Take a look at these home remedies for animal bites.
Cat and dog bites are fairly common and they can occur in many different scenarios, including:
- breaking up a cat or dog fight
- during play or “mouthing” (especially with a teething puppy or kitten)
- while administering first aid treatment to an injured animal
- while trapping or handling a feral cat or stray dog
- during the course of cat or dog grooming.
There are certain measures that should be taken in order to prevent infection from dog bites and other animal bites.
Cat and Dog Bite First Aid – How to Treat Animal Bites
The following first aid treatment should be performed on a cat or dog bite victim:
1. Allow the wound to bleed for approximately 10 minutes (except in cases of profuse, heavy bleeding); this will flush away bacteria.
2. Flush the wound with running water for five minutes; allow the water to run into the wound.
3. Wash the bite wound and surrounding area with an anti-bacterial soap for five minutes.
4. Thoroughly rinse the wound and allow to air dry. Do not blow on the skin to dry it, as this will lead to contamination.
5. Pour betadine into the wound and around the surrounding area; allow it to air dry. If necessary, hydrogen peroxide can be substituted for betadine.
6. Apply a generous amount of antibiotic ointment (Neosporin, triple antibiotic or similar) into the puncture; also apply to a one-inch diameter surrounding the wound.
7. Cover with a sterile gauze pad or several layers of rolled gauze.
8. Transport the cat or dog bite victim to the physician’s office or emergency room.
9. Apply ice compresses for 20-minute increments to reduce swelling and pain.
A visit to a physician or emergency room is always recommended for cat bites, dog bites and other animal-related puncture wounds due to the high risk of infection and illnesses like rabies. Antibiotics are always prescribed following animal bites.
Cleaning a dog or cat bite
The dog or cat bite wound should be cleaned three times per day (using steps 2 through 7) until completely healed. Depending on the location of the wound, the physician may recommend leaving it uncovered to allow for improved air flow. Prior to each subsequent cleaning, cold compresses should be applied for an hour (using a pattern of 20 minutes on; 10 minutes off). This will reduce swelling, allowing for more effective cleaning inside the wound.
Stitches are rarely recommended for cat and dog bite victims due to the high risk of infection. When stitches are required, (i.e. if the wound involves the face or if the skin is torn, rather than punctured), a drain will be inserted to promote drainage.
Symptoms of Dog Bite Infection and Treatment of Infected Animal Bites
Puncture wound infections are very common, as the bacteria is essentially “injected” into the skin. Inflammation can cause the wound to swell closed; this impedes drainage and traps bacteria inside the wound. Puncture wounds from animal bites are even more prone to infection due to the amount of bacteria that’s present in the mouth.
Cat and dog bite victims should look for the following symptoms of infection:
- swelling worsens with time
- redness worsens with time
- pus and/or green, yellow, white or pink discharge
- odor at the wound site or discharge with odor
- increased pain
- red streaks radiating out from the wound site
- fever, chills or aches
- bite wound that will not heal
Typically, after the first 24 hours, swelling, redness and pain peaks. Thereafter, gradual improvement should occur. If symptoms worsen with time, this is a sign of a cat or dog bite infection.
Immediate treatment is required if an infection is suspected. Animal bite treatments may include surgical removal of dead tissue, wound flushing, anti-inflammatory medications and oral or IV antibiotics. If rabies is suspected (or in cases where rabies cannot be definitively ruled out) the cat or dog bite victim may receive a series of injections and rabies testing.
Cat Scratch Infection and Cat Scratch Fever
The same first aid techniques can be utilized for cat scratches (particularly scratches from unfamiliar or feral cats), along with scratches from wild animals and other domestic pets like dogs, hamsters or rabbits. Improper cat scratch treatment can lead to infection, as the cat’s claws are bacteria-laden from trips to the litter box, grooming and simply walking.
In some cases, a cat scratch infection can lead to cat scratch fever, which occurs when the wound is infected by a specific type of bacteria known as “Bartonella Henselae.” This form of cat scratch infection, also known as “cat scratch disease,” is not usually serious in a healthy individual; on occasion, a course of antibiotics may be required.
Whether it’s treatment for a cat scratch or dog bite, photos can be a useful tool for monitoring healing. Gradual changes can be difficult to detect. Cat or dog bite photos, taken on a daily basis (in the same location with the same lighting), can be compared and if the wound fails to improve or gets worse, this indicates infection. In the case of a dog bite, photos are also useful as a form of documentation. If an incident leads to a dog bite lawsuit, photographs can be vital. Accurate documentation of injuries is vital in a dog bite case.