Animal

Bite or Scratch Treatment

Due to their popularity, millions of Americans receive medical attention for dog, cat, pig, bird, horse, and other types of animal bites every year. Most often caused by dogs and cats, animal bites are both painful immediately after they occur and are prone to infection. Additionally, while dog bites are the most common, cat bites are most likely to get infected. Healthcare professionals urge those bitten by animals to clean the wound immediately and then seek out a medical consultation to avoid an infection from occurring. 

Animal bite symptoms can differ depending on the offending animal and how aggressively the bite occurred. In the event the bite gets infected, symptoms can worsen over time while producing a worse appearance and an unpleasant smell. The most common symptoms immediately at the point of contact and thereafter can include: 

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Pain and tenderness

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Swelling and redness

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Bruising or discoloration

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Puncture wounds or lacerations

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Bleeding

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Numbness or tingling

Animal bites can happen for varying reasons depending on the animal, often because it feels ill, threatened, or agitated at an invasion of space. It can also be a form of communication, with dogs, cats, and mules often doing it when in pain or when a person touches a pained area. Alongside territorial disputes over a person, food, or a thing in their environment, there can be too many factors to count why an animal would bite. 

However, the most common animals to bite are dogs and cats, making up over 90% of animal bite consultations in the United States. Animals like birds, horses, donkeys, mules, and cows do also bite but are less likely to do so when compared to dogs and cats.  

An animal bite diagnosis typically involves a straightforward diagnosis, with normally there being further questioning exploring whether the wound could result in an infection or result in further damage. The process generally starts by identifying the wound, the animal that did so, how long since the bite has occurred, and the symptoms the patient is feeling. Additionally, a doctor will ask about the patient’s rabies vaccination status and whether the animal is suspected of the infection. If there is evidence of an infection or a broken bone, the doctor will request further tests, but normally it will involve medication to stop any infections from forming and to dull any pain felt. 

After the wound has been immediately washed and disinfected, the wound should be covered in ointment before being dressed or bandaged. Antibiotics are commonly prescribed to prevent or treat bacterial infections, especially if the bite is deep, puncture wounds, or if there's a risk of exposure to bacteria from the animal's mouth. Alongside rabies, doctors may question the patient about their vaccine history, specifically having to do with tetanus and rabies and whether it needs to be administered to prevent the disease. 

In more severe cases, such as bites causing extensive tissue damage or fractures, surgical intervention may be necessary to repair the injured area. Close monitoring for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or discharge, is essential, and further medical attention should be sought if these symptoms arise.

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Augmentin

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Amoxicillin

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Clavulanate

In addition to animal bite treatment, there are several ways individuals can actively manage an animal bite to promote healing and reduce the risk of complications:

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Regularly cleaning the wound 

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Applying antiseptic

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Only using clean bandages and dressing

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Minimizing scratching and itching

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Monitor for signs of infection

Preventing animal bites primarily rests upon an understanding of how animals behave, awareness of any in the area, and management of those that are in your area. Preventative measures one can take can include: 

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Avoid running around animals you do not know

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Give animals adequate space 

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Supervise interactions between animals and children

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Get educated on animal body language and behavior

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Secure objects of interest like toys, trash, and food

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Vaccinate your pets 

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Be cautious in parks, fields, and places that may feature pets

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Educate your children about how to deal with animals

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Get your pets trained and be active in disciplining them 

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FAQ

Of the 4.5 million dog bites that are recorded annually, pit bulls typically make up around 20% of bites in the United States, followed by rottweilers, German shepherds, chihuahuas (and other small dogs), huskies, and wolf hybrids. It’s important to note that while they still remain high, occurrences of dog bites have continually dropped year by year.  

Dog bites are often not sutured due to the risk of trapping bacteria in the wound, which can increase the likelihood of infection. Leaving the wound open allows for better drainage and reduces the chance of complications associated with bacterial growth in closed, sutured wounds.

Whereas dog bites are more often severe, cat bites more often lead to infections. Therefore, it's important to first flush the animal bite immediately after it occurs, then wash the bite wound out with soap and water before putting pressure on the wound and making an effort to stop the bleeding. Once the bleeding halts, apply antibiotic cream. Indications of an infection often arise hours after the bite is received, so monitor its condition and be prepared to go seek medical care if its condition worsens. 

Cat bites can be dangerous due to the bacteria present in a cat's mouth, particularly Pasteurella multocida, which can lead to severe infections. Whereas dog bites are more often more damaging, the puncture nature of cat bites can introduce bacteria deep into tissues, increasing the risk of complications and necessitating prompt medical attention.

A dog bite will only cause rabies if the dog itself is infected with rabies. If there is any doubt about the dog's vaccination status or if the dog appears sick, immediate medical attention, including rabies prophylaxis, is recommended to prevent the potential transmission of the virus.

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