An animal’s mouth is filled with many different types of bacteria that can cause disease. Bacteria can enter a person’s body when saliva comes in contact with a wound. This is often seen in cat or dog bites, but can also occur if you allow a dog to lick broken skin. It’s important to practice proper hygiene after an animal bite, and seek professional medical attention if you experience any sort of infection.
Dog Bites vs. Cat Bites
Infection can occur from the mouth of any household pet. Dog bites tend to do more outright damage than cat bites—a large dog can exert over 450 pounds of pressure per square inch. Since dogs’ teeth are relatively dull, wounds typically consist of the crushing of tissue and lacerations or tearing of the skin. The crushed tissue is then particularly susceptible to infection.
A cat’s teeth are typically thinner and sharper than a dog’s, so puncture wounds are more likely. If the bite is deep, bacteria can be introduced deeply into the tissue. Up to 80% of cat bite wounds can become infected if proper treatment is not taken. Comparatively, about 15-20% of dog bite wounds become infected.
The bacterium called Pasteurella is the most common cause of infections following animal bites. The organism is found in the mouths of most dogs and cats and can start an infection once it enters the wound. The first symptoms of Pasteurellosis typically occur between 2 and 12 hours after the bite. Initial symptoms include pain, reddening, and swelling near the bite wound. Pasteurellosis can quickly spread to the body from the site of a bite. If left untreated, this infection can lead to severe complications, especially if the victim was bitten on the hand.
Streptococcal and staphylococcal infections
Streptococcal and staphylococcal infections begin with symptoms similar to symptoms of Pasteurellosis. You should seek immediate medical attention if pain, swelling, or redness occur around the site of the animal bite. A streptococcal infection can lead to chronic illness and kidney disease. A staphylococcal infection could eventually cause skin infection, blood poisoning, and pneumonia.
Caused by the bacterium Capnocytophaga Canimorsus, a Capnocytophaga infection is extremely rare but extremely dangerous. Most people who have been infected by the bacteria were bitten by dogs, and in many situations, the bites were seemingly minor. Capnocytophaga can cause blood poisoning, especially in immunocompromised individuals. Up to 30% of people who have developed blood poisoning due to Capnocytophaga died from their injuries.
What to do After a Dog Bite
If an animal bites you, even if it’s your own pet, clean the bite wound thoroughly with soap and warm water. It will probably sting a bit when you clean it off, but an infection would hurt much worse. Once the site is clean, apply an antiseptic such as iodine. Let the area dry and cover it with antibiotic ointment and a bandage.
There are several situations in which an animal bite would require immediate professional medical attention. People at increased risk for infection include:
- People over 50;
- People with diabetes, liver disease, circulatory problems, or HIV/AIDS;
- People without spleens;
- People who have undergone chemotherapy or have taken long-term steroids;
- And people who have had a mastectomy or organ transplant.
If you are at an increased risk for infection, have suffered a severe animal bite, or have been bitten by a wild or stray animal, seek medical advice right away. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to prevent an infection, or administer a tetanus booster. If you were bitten by a stray animal, you may need to begin an anti-rabies treatment.
Animal bites can be extremely serious and should be treated as such. If you’ve been injured by a dog or cat, seek immediate medical treatment and contact a respected dog bite lawyer. At Schultz & Myers Personal Injury Lawyers, we serve victims of dog bite injury throughout ALL of Arkansas: not just Little Rock and Bentonville. If you’ve been injured by a dog, contact an attorney as soon as practical.