Animal bites are common occurrence; especially many people are bitten by domestic animals. According to an estimate, at least 15% of these bites are due to cats. Cat bites should be considered seriously, since most cases of cat bites become infected. The most common infection from a cat bite is bacterial infection.
There are significant colonies of pathogenic organisms in cat’s mouth, nasal cavity and the tonsils. These include Pasteurella bacteria, Actinomyces, streptococcal species, staphylococcus bacteria etc. The teeth of cats are very sharp. They can cause deep puncture wounds. Bacteria enter into the body through these puncture wounds. Infection can also occur when the cat licks a cut or a scratch since cat’s saliva is heavily contaminated with bacteria.
Since the teeth of cats are thin and sharp, they are likely to cause puncture wounds. The wound appears to be small on the surface, but it penetrates deep inside the tissue. It is difficult to clean puncture wound, so lot of bacteria are left in the wound which may ultimately result into infection.
Types Of Infections From Cat Bites And Scratches
Cat bites can cause various types of infection; given below are some of them.
- Streptococcal infection: The bacteria from cat’s saliva enter the wound. It can cause swelling, redness and pain at the site of bite. The infection can spread all over the body within a day depending on the patient’s resistance. At the local site, there is formation of pus. Throbbing pain, fever and body ache are other streptococcal infection symptoms. Renal failure and affection of heart valves is often complication encountered with streptococcal infection.
- Staphylococcus infection: similar to streptococcus infection, staphylococcus infection at the local site of cat bite is common. The patient may complain of swelling, pain, redness and warmth at the site of bite. The wound gets infected with pus.
- Pasteurellosis: pasteurella organisms are common inhabitants in cat’s mouth. After a bite, the first sign of pasteurella infection appears within 12 hours. Inflammation, pain, redness and swelling are common at the bitten site. Within a span of short period, it can the infection can spread throughout the body. If the cat bite has afflicted bones and deep tissue it can cause osteomyelitis.
- Infection from cat scratch also known as cat scratch disease: it occurs more often in children. It is caused by Bartonella henselae bacteria. Usually 3 to 5 days after the bite or scratch or lick of a cat, the patient develops a papule that later crusts. One or two weeks later tender lymph nodes develop; there can be mild fever and malaise. The lymph nodes involved are axillary, cervical, pectoral etc. complications include meningitis, osteomyelitis, hepatitis etc. Cat scratch disease is generally benign and self limiting. In immune-compromised individual antibiotic administration may be necessary.
Cat Bite Infection Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of cat bite infection include:
- Wound, it is usually a punctured wound.
- Most common site is in the hands and legs or on the face.
- There may be slight bleeding from the wound.
- The skin at the site is red and tender.
- There may be associated swelling at the local site of bite.
- The area may become red and warm.
- Pus may collect at the site of bite.
- The area is painful.
Systemic symptoms may include
- Body ache.
- Swelling of lymph nodes.
How To Treat Cat Scratches And Bites?
- Wash the bite and the area around the bite thoroughly with plenty of soap and running water. This will reduce the exposure to an infection.
- Clean the wound with an antibiotic lotion.
- Apply a sterile bandage over the wound.
- Consult the doctor as soon as possible.
- The doctor may prescribe antibiotics to prevent or treat the infection.
- He will also give a tetanus shot.
- Watch for signs of infection such as redness, swelling, warmth and pus from the bitten site.