Welcome to eTenet
Services & Specialties
Events Calendar
Physician Finder
What's New
About Us
Wound Care Center
Digestive Health Institute
& Heartburn Center
Cancer Center
Center for Bloodless
Medicine & Surgery

Health Centers
Life Issues
Exercise & Fitness
Cool Tools
Test Your Health

Tenet Healthcare Corp.
General Information
Your Health
Join Tenet
Privacy Pledge

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q  R S T U V W X  Y Z 

Animal Bites


Bite wounds can become infected with bacteria or other organisms in the saliva or mouth of the biting animal. Bites can cause everything from mild, local infections to generalized serious and sometimes fatal illness.

(Back to Top)

Dog Bites

Dogs are the most common source of animal bites. More than 1 million Americans, one-half of them children, are treated for dog bites each year.

Children should be taught at an early age not to approach a strange dog, and dog owners should see to it that their animals are properly restrained at all times. This means using a leash and, if needed, a muzzle when walking a dog, and making sure that it is kept in a secure enclosure at other times.

Mild abrasions and scrapes from healthy dogs usually require little else than cleansing with soap and water. If a dog bite actually punctures the skin, effort should be made to irrigate the wound and clean out foreign debris. Broad-spectrum antibiotics are sometimes useful to treat infection with common organisms.

If a dog bite is deep and severe, medical consultation should be obtained. While contracting rabies from a dog bite is rare, it can happen, so appropriate precautions should be taken if this is suspected. Likewise, your doctor or other health professional will want to make sure your tetanus immunization status is up to date and, if not, take appropriate precautions by administering tetanus immune globulin.

(Back to Top)

Cat Bites

Cats now outnumber dogs in the census of household pets. Many people opt for a cat because felines thrive in spite of being left alone all day, and they generally require less care and attention than dogs. Cats are well-adapted to the indoor environment and are healthier if kept indoors, particularly in a city environment.

Most cat scratches are superficial - all that is necessary is to wash the wound with soap and water. Cat bites, however, can easily become infected, since a cat's teeth are long and sharp and may inflict a deep wound. Cat saliva, like any saliva, carries bacteria. If a cat bites you deeply, you should get medical help - you may need a tetanus shot and antibiotics. Deep scratches may also require a tetanus shot and medical treatment.

Cat-scratch disease, which occasionally develops after a person has been scratched, is characterized by a swelling at the site and in nearby lymph glands and flu-like symptoms. It is chiefly a childhood affliction. In its first few days, the body battles fever, extreme fatigue, irritability, inflamed lymph nodes, headaches, blurred vision and watery eyes.

Treatment with antibiotics speeds recovery in some patients, but everyone struggles with relapses for about six months until the disease runs its course.

The culprit is not the cat exactly, but a bacterium found in the animal's blood called Rochalimaea henselae. For a person to get sick, the bacterium has to get underneath the skin - most commonly from a scratch or bite.

A cat's claws become contaminated when it scratches itself; teeth are exposed when gum disease causes blood loss in the mouth. Cats of any age are carriers, but most people with cat-scratch disease have had contact with a kitten. Young cats are more likely than adults to carry R. henselae, and by nature scratch and bite more frequently.

(Back to Top)

Bites From Other Animals

Bites from other animals should be managed the same way as dog and cat bites: thorough cleansing of the wound with soap and water, more aggressive cleansing and debridement of more severe wounds, and the use of antibiotics if necessary.

(Back to Top)


Any animal bite also raises the possibility of rabies. Thanks to vaccinations, rabies is rare among domestic animals in this country, but cats have a higher rate of rabies than dogs. If the cat that bit you has not been vaccinated, and if it goes outdoors and may have been bitten by a rabid raccoon or other wild animal, the cat should be confined for 21 days and observed for signs of rabies. Be suspicious of a cat that is aggressive or behaves strangely.

Animals with the greatest risk of producing rabies are bats, coyotes, skunks, foxes and racoons.

The risk of rabies from rodents such as field mice and squirrels is relatively small. It is always a good idea, however, to consult with the local public health department about the recent experience with rabies in your geographic area.

(Back to Top)

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

What is the extent of the injury caused by the cat?

Is there any sign of infection?

Is it cat-scratch disease?

Should antibiotics be taken?

Is there any possibility of exposure to rabies?

Are any preventive measures called for?

(Back to Top)

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q  R S T U V W X  Y Z 
Physician Finder
Events Calendar
Newsletter Signup!
Test Your Health
Maps & Directions