Don't risk infection after a cat bite

Every cat owner has suffered a bite or bad scratch at some point. While these wounds are painful, most people don't realize just how dangerous a cat bite really is.

If a cat breaks the skin when it bites, you need to be very careful. A recent study by the Mayo Clinic confirms that the danger of infection from a cat bite is real, and that it is more common than we think: cat bites account for 10 to 15 percent of animal bite visits to the emergency room each year.

How do dog and cat bites differ?

While dogs and cats can cause serious injuries, cats have sharper teeth than dogs, allowing them to make deeper punctures. The deeper the bite, the easier it is for bacteria to cause an infection. And if a joint or tendon is involved, as they often are when a hand is bitten, bacteria can be impossible to reach without surgery.

Dogs have teeth that are more rounded than cats' teeth. They may have larger and/or stronger jaws, but the bite wounds they make are typically not as deep as cat bite wounds. You can certainly suffer injuries and infection from a dog bite, but cat wounds are more prone to causing serious infections.

Of the 193 cat bite victims in the Mayo Clinic's study, nearly 60 had to be hospitalized, with an average hospital stay of three days. Thirty-eight of the hospitalized patients required surgery to remove the infected tissue.

What are your options?

If you suffer a cat or dog bite, or any animal attack, you need to get immediate medical care and closely monitor your wounds. Depending on the severity of the injuries, you may want to seek compensation from the animal's owner for your medical bills and other losses.

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