Cat biteA cat bite is not only often painful, but should be examined and treated by a doctor to be on the safe side. Why? You can read about this in the clinical picture cat bite.
Most people think a cat bite is harmless. And indeed: In many cases the wound heals by itself within a few days. However, there remains a large amount of cat bites that do not heal quickly. It is not uncommon for cat owners to suffer serious complications after a supposedly harmless bite. These are mainly consequences of wound infections. First and foremost is tetanus (lockjaw). With stray cats there is also the danger of rabies infection (Rabies).
What many pet owners don't know: Everyday cat bites are significantly more dangerous than dog bites. Dogs bite more often. And dangerous dogs sometimes inflict very serious injuries on humans. Everyday superficial dog bites, however, almost always heal on their own. Cat bites, on the other hand, are usually deep because of the sharp pointed cat teeth. In the case of a bite, cats often transmit bacteria to deep layers of the skin. There, the bacteria sometimes cause severe wound infections. In the worst case, a life-threatening blood poisoning (sepsis) occurs.
Because of these risks, cat bites should always be examined by a doctor to be on the safe side. This is especially true when a cat bite wound shows signs of inflammation. These are, for example, reddening, swelling, fluid secretion or increasing pain.
With thorough wound cleansing and antibiotic therapy as needed, cat bites and their consequences can be successfully treated reliably.
There are no exact figures on the frequency of cat bites in Germany. According to German liability insurers, about 30 per year.000 animal bites are reported to insurers. It is amed that only about 20 percent of dog or cat bites become official. So, extrapolating, one can ame about 150.000 bite injuries per year. According to American studies, dog bites are about five times more frequent than cat bites. If one converts this relationship on Germany, one comes on approx. 30.000 cat bites per year.
It is not possible to say how many of these cat bites are medically examined. It is known from studies that between 20 and 50 percent of cat bites presented to a medical professional are associated with wound infection. Characteristic symptom of a cat bite are the very small. Comparatively deep-reaching injuries caused by the sharp, pointed cat teeth. As a rule, serious cat bites are very painful. Hands, arms, face and legs are particularly frequently affected. Especially on the hands and face, cat bites reach down to joints or bones. Sometimes they injure or sever tendons or ligaments.
Complications of cat bites
If bacteria or other pathogens get into the bite wound with the cat bite, an infection often occurs within hours. Symptoms of cat bite inflammation are redness, swelling or increasing pain. Secretions of pus or bloody tie fluid as well as fever or swollen lymph channels are signs of an advanced wound infection or an abscess. Such inflammations must be treated urgently, otherwise the infection can spread to the whole body. In the worst case, a life-threatening blood poisoning (sepsis) is imminent.
Bites in the area of tendon sheaths and joints as well as nerve tracts are particularly prone to complications. Cat bites to the hand or wrists often lead to acute joint inflammation (arthritis) or bone marrow inflammation (osteomyelitis). Also permanent nervous damage with functional failures of the fingers are possible.
Infection with Capnocytophaga canimorsus
The gram-positive bacterium Capnocytophaga canimorsus is found in the mouth of many dogs and cats. In people with a weakened immune system (sick, elderly, infants), this bacterium can cause life-threatening complications within hours. These are mainly blood poisoning (sepsis), meningitis (meningitis) and endocarditis (endocarditis).
People who are allergic to cats and those who are sensitive to cats may go into a life-threatening state of shock after being bitten by a cat. The shock is a medical emergency. If people lose consciousness after a cat bite, the skin becomes particularly pale, or those bitten report shivering or a racing heart, emergency medical attention should be called.
The causes of the cat bite itself are usually obvious. But why are cat bites so much more dangerous than dog bites, for example??
With all bites, whether of humans, dog, cat or other domestic animals, germs are transferred. Because the mucous membrane of the oral cavity is colonized with countless bacteria in all animals. Bacteria usually also nest between and on teeth.
Bites transmit potentially pathogenic bacteria in about 85 percent of cases. Bacteria that actually cause infections are mainly staphylococci (aureus and intermedius), streptococci and Capnocytophaga canimorsus. From the group of anaerobic germs, especially Bacteroides and Clostridia are to be mentioned.
Tetanus bacteria are also transmitted in most animal bites. However, they very often do not cause tetanus, since most people in Germany have a tetanus vaccination.
In the case of bites from domestic animals, the viral pathogens of rabies play almost no role in Germany. In rabies areas as well as during travel cats can be infected with the virus.
Special risk factors
Particular risk factors for complications after a cat bite are diseases of the metabolic system such as diabetes or liver inflammation. Also a therapy with corticoids favors severe courses of cat bite-related wound infections.
The best person to contact for an examination of a cat bite is your family doctor, and in the case of children, also the pediatrician. The examination begins with a thorough inspection of the bite wound. If there are signs of a wound infection, it may be necessary to take a swab in order to determine the pathogen causing the inflammation in a laboratory examination.
The treatment of a cat bite consists first of all of cleaning the wound thoroughly and rinsing it with iodine or saline solution. The wound is then covered sterilely. Depending on the depth and location of the bite, it may be necessary to immobilize the affected area. As a rule, cat bite wounds are not initially sutured. Because closing the wound would favor the survival of anaerobic bacteria in deep wound regions. In addition, wounds close by themselves in the course of normal wound healing anyway.
Drug therapy after cat bites
If there is evidence of bacterial infection, antibiotic combinations such as aminopenicillin plus a beta-lactamase inhibitor, piperacillin-tazobactam, and cefotaxime plus metronidazole are commonly used in the treatment of cat bites. From monotherapies with, for example, clindamycin, erythromycin, flucloxacillin or cephalosporins (1. The use of a second generation vaccine is not recommended, as not all pathogens may be detected.
If rabies infection is suspected, targeted therapy must be started as soon as possible. If the so-called post-exposure prophylaxis is not started at the latest seven days after the infection, the already small chance of survival with rabies is only very small.
If tetanus vaccination is not complete, completion or booster of tetanus vaccination is also part of treatment for cat bite injuries.
In the vast majority of cases, cat bites cause permanent damage only in the form of small scars. Serious complications are rare. Nevertheless, the risk is great enough to strongly recommend a medical examination of cat bites.
Cat bites are clearly more dangerous than superficial bite wounds by dogs, rodents or other pets. To prevent complications after a cat bite. Other wound infections) the vaccination against tetanus is strongly recommended. Tetanus vaccination can save your life or that of your children.
You can also get vaccinated against rabies. The Permanent Vaccination Commission of the RKI does not consider a preventive vaccination necessary, however, because rabies is practically non-existent in Germany. Accordingly, rabies vaccination is only an option for people who are more likely than average to come into contact with the virus. This can be the case in particularly unfavorable circumstances, for example, people have frequent contact with stray or imported cats.