Cat Bites Pose Special Risks
For people who go to the emergency room with animal bites each year, cat bites account for only 10 to 15 percent. Although dog bites are much more common, the wounds inflicted by cats are of special concern because of a greater infection risk. Dog bites are also more likely to tear through flesh and break bones. Even so, these wounds are open and easier to clean. This reduces the potential to become infected. Cat bites, on the other hand, make puncture marks which can inject bacteria into tendons and bones where it is out of reach.
A three-year retrospective study performed on 193 people who visited the Mayo Clinic Hospital for cat bites of the hand was published in the February issue of a science journal, The Journal of Hand Surgery. Of the number studied, thirty-six people who were bitten were admitted to the hospital immediately, with an average hospital stay of three days. An additional 154 were given oral antibiotic treatment on an outpatient basis with 21 of that number requiring hospitalization later on. Some of the complications that occurred from the bites were associated with nerves, abscesses and a loss of joint mobility.
An aggressive bacterium found in the mouths of many animals including as many as 90 % of healthy cats, Pasteurella multocida, was the most common cause of infection. Amoxicillin is the drug of choice in treating these infections. Cat bites to the hand can easily penetrate tendon sheaths and joints, after which the bacterium grows quickly where there is an abundance of fluid without circulation. Symptoms include redness, swelling, growing severity of pain, difficulty in moving the afflicted hand and drainage from the wound.