Infections: Close look on animal bites

Animal bites are usually caused by domestic animals such as cats and dogs. Infection is likely to occur in most cases of cat bites but to a lesser degree from dog bites.

One reason why infection develops from animal bites is that they often occur on the hands or fingers. Remember that these areas are not properly equipped to fight off infection. In addition, the bacteria often come from the mouth of the animal or already present on the skin. The infections are often caused by the penetration of these bacteria on the skin.

What causes infected animal bites?

The infection from animal bites is due to bacteria. The bacteria might be present in the saliva or mouth of the animal. The bacteria that is already present on the skin might enter the wound.

Indications of an infected animal bite

animal-bites
The usual indications of infected animal bites include pain, redness, swelling and inflammation at the bite site.

The usual indications of infected animal bites include pain, redness, swelling and inflammation at the bite site. It is vital to seek immediate medical care if any of these symptoms continue for more than 24 hours.

Other indications of infection include:

  • Fluid or pus draining from the wound
  • Fever or chills
  • Tenderness in the bite site
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Loss of sensation around the bite site
  • Limited use of the hand or finger
  • Reddened streaks close to the bite site
  • Fatigue
  • Night sweats
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Muscle weakness or tremors

Management

The initial step in caring for animal bites is to thoroughly cleanse and assess the wound. This can help in preventing the development of infection.

Minor wound

  • Cleanse the area thoroughly using soap and water
  • Cover the area using a clean bandage

Deep wound suspected with rabies or infection

  • Place pressure to control any bleeding with a clean cloth
  • Cleanse the area thoroughly using water and soap
  • Seek medical care for further assessment

Infected wound

In case infection is already present, antibiotics are prescribed. Generally, the treatment lasts for 5-10 days. Nevertheless, the length of treatment tends to vary which is based on factors such as the type of bite, severity and any current health issues.

For infected animal bites, intravenous antibiotics are started until the infection settles but most cases only require oral antibiotics. The doctor might also recommend a tetanus booster shot which depends on the severity of the bite and vaccination status.

When a blood test is done to determine the extent of the infection, the doctor might stitch the wound. A follow-up visit is also scheduled after 48 hours to monitor the wound. If the wound is left untreated, the infection can spread and cause serious health issues.

More Information / Disclaimer

The information posted on this page on infected animal bites is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize and manage wounds from animals by taking a standard first aid course with Mississauga First Aid.

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