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Don't underestimate the danger of cat bites

When one thinks of a dangerous animal bite we usually think of something like a dog bite or being bitten by a wild animal that could be rabid. It is true that these types of bites are common and can cause serious injury, but a new study reveals that there is one type of animal bite many people may be overlooking – cat bites. Cat bites comprise only 10 to 15 percent of animal bites that are treated in emergency rooms and as such are relatively uncommon but these bites can still pose special risks to victims.

Cat bites might be smaller and seem less serious at first, but a study done at the Mayo Clinic found that cat bites are associated with a need for antibiotics and sometimes short hospital stays as a result of the bacteria that can transfer from a cat’s mouth into the tendon and bone. Tendons and bones do not have as much blood flow as skin tissue or muscles, so the body has a harder time fighting bacteria there and infections located there often require surgery in addition to antibiotics.

Most commonly, cat bites caused a Pasteurella multocida infection that is found in 90 percent of healthy cats. This means that cat owners who assure bite victims that their cat is healthy and safe might be wrong when it comes to the implications for humans.

The bottom line is that cat bites can be very serious and those who are bitten by cats should not delay in seeking treatment. And, as with dog bites, owners are responsible for the harmful actions of their pets.

Source: New York Times, “Beware of a Cat’s Bite,” Nicholas Bakalar, Feb. 13, 2014.

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