How to Treat a Cat Bite

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Emergency Physican  discusses treatment of cat bites.

Emergency Physican  discusses treatment of cat bites.

Video transcript

Featuring Dr. Tony Taylor, MD, EMBA

Duration: 2 minutes, 30 seconds

Cat bites are common injuries that we seen in the emergency department, cats are common pets in many households.

Cat bites can be superficial injuries or they can be very serious injuries, and it's important to have them assessed. Cat bites differ from dog bites in that cat bites tend to be more of a puncture wound as opposed to a tearing wound that we see with dogs. And as such, the chances of getting infection in a cat bite is much greater than it is with a dog bite, so it’s important to have your cat bites assessed.

When you come to your healthcare facility or emergency department, the emergency physician or health care provider will do a thorough assessment, looking for damage to the skin, any underlying structures such as the muscles, the tendons, the nerves, the blood vessels, less likely the bones, and whether or not there’s any retained foreign bodies.

The treatment is pretty straightforward. The most important part of the treatment is cleaning the wound, and this may involve scrubbing the wound or actually irrigating the wound out with saline or sterile water.

Very rarely will cat bites be closed primarily, and that’s because of the increased risk of infection. Most cat bites will be treated with a course of antibiotics to further minimize the chances of infection.

It’s important to watch out for infection once you’ve been sent home from your healthcare facility, and what you want to watch out for is increasing pain, redness, swelling, or discharge from the wound. If any of those appear, return to your healthcare facility promptly to have your wound reassessed.

In addition to this, an assessment of whether or not you need tetanus will be done. If you haven’t had a tetanus shot within ten years and there is no contraindications, this would be a good time to get a tetanus shot.

The chances of rabies in cats is small, especially if it’s a domestic cat within North America. If it’s a non-domestic cat or a wild cat in a rural area or outside of North America, then a careful assessment for rabies will need to be undertaken.

Presenter: Dr. Tony Taylor, Emergency Physician, New Westminster, BC

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This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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