All cat bites, from little nips to deep punctures, have the potential to cause infection. Knowing the signs of infection or other disease resulting from a cat bite is the first step toward safeguarding your health.
Symptoms of Possible Complications
Although both dog and cat saliva contain many types of bacteria, a person is more likely to get an infection from a cat bite than a dog bite. Cats' teeth are sharper and longer than their canine counterparts. Cat bites generally produce small, deep puncture wounds that are difficult to clean. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, all cat bites should be seen by a doctor as soon as possible due to the high risk of infection. While mild infections cause slight discomfort, serious ones can be life-threatening.
Health Guide Info warns an infection can develop within 24 to 48 hours of being bitten. Common signs of infection include:
- Redness: One of the first signs your bite may be getting infected is redness around the wound. This can vary from light pink to a dark, angry-looking crimson red. If the area is getting red, watch for any spreading of redness outward to the rest of the body. Spreading of redness could indicate blood poisoning.
- Heat: Whether or not the bite begins to redden, check it often to make sure it is not warmer than the other parts of your body. As your body sends antibodies to fight infection, the temperature around the infected area may heat up even before the area turns red.
- Odor: Some bites develop an unusual odor. It may be difficult to detect at first, but the wound may smell if untreated.
- Pus or oozing: An infected bite can abscess and puff up with a growth that looks like a pimple or boil. The growth will eventually pop and drain, but a doctor should examine the wound.
- Fever: This may develop if an infection is left untreated too long.
Health Guide Info lists headache, fatigue, low blood pressure and rapid heartbeat as additional symptoms of infection. Treatment generally consists of antibiotics and possibly a tetanus shot.
Transmitted by a scratch or bite, cat-scratch fever, also known as cat-scratch disease, is generally not serious in people with healthy immune systems. However, see your doctor if you develop symptoms. If you suffer from a compromised immune system due to an existing medical condition, you must seek medical attention if a cat bites you.
According to MedicineNet.com, symptoms include:
- A blister or small bump forming at the site of the bite
- Tenderness and swelling of the lymph nodes
- Sore throat
- Loss of appetite
Cat-scratch fever symptoms typically occur three to thirty days after the bite, with most cases developing in the first one to two weeks. Your doctor will most likely prescribe antibiotics. The illness usually lasts two to four months, but may last up to a year.
Treating a Cat Bite
According to Family Doctor, you can lower the chance of infection from a cat bite by taking these steps right away:
- Wash your hands, or put on rubber gloves before beginning treatment.
- If the bite is bleeding, apply direct pressure to the wound with a clean, dry cloth. Continue applying pressure until the bleeding stops.
- If the bite is not bleeding or is bleeding slightly, wash the area for several minutes with antibacterial soap and water. Use running water if possible.
- Rinse the wound thoroughly.
- Sterilize the area with Betadine, or soak it in a solution of peroxide or Epsom salts and warm water.
- Apply an antibiotic ointment or cream, coating the area.
- Cover the bite with a sterile dressing.
- Watch the bite area over the next two days for any signs of infection.
Take Every Bite Seriously
Never make the mistake of ignoring a bite wound. Clean it properly and call your family doctor about having the bite examined. Getting bitten by a cat is a fairly common occurrence, but you still need to protect your health.