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Treatment of Pet Bites: March 17, 2012

When it comes to animal bites, the most likely culprit is living underfoot.

“Most of them are household pets and many people will get infections from these animal bites,” says Dr. Dennis Sagini, an orthopedic hand surgeon on the medical staff of Lee Memorial Health System.

Common victims are children between the ages of five and nine. Their injuries should be handled immediately, especially if they suffered a cat bite.

“Cats have very sharp and long teeth so it may seem that it’s just a small puncture but the infection can actually travel very deep from the bacteria that’s in the cat’s mouth,” says Dr. Sagini.

Here are some things you should do to take care of the wound. First, wash it gently with soap and water, apply pressure with a clean towel to stop any bleeding, keep it elevated above the heart level to slow swelling and prevent infection. A severe bite requires a doctor visit.

“If there’s uncontrollable bleeding it should be seen right away and a patient should be started on antibiotics so that it doesn’t develop into a larger infection,” says Dr. Sagini.

The difference between cats and dogs is apparent in both the way they bite and the damage it leaves behind.

“Dog bites usually cause a lot more physical damage, cat bites can cause more infectious damage,” says Dr. Sagini.

If untreated an animal bite could result in surgery to clear an infection.

“The main procedures that are done are what are called irrigation debridement. We open the area that was bitten and make sure we thoroughly cleanse the area out with a saline solution. Many times we don’t completely close the wound because we would like the infection to drain out,” says Dr. Sagini.

The important thing is to never underestimate the bite even if it comes from someone you love.