Ask The Expert
March 07, 2012
As much as theyíre loved, pets often bite their owners. And even beloved dogs and cats carry bacteria in their mouths. So you should always take an animal bite seriously.
When an animalís teeth break through the skin, the teeth can carry those bacteria beneath the surface. It can cause a serious infection if the bite is near a tendon, bone, or joint.
To be on the safe side, contact your doctor within 6 hours if youíve been bitten on the face or hand, even if the bite seems minor. This is especially true if youíve been bitten by a cat bit you. Cats have narrow, sharp teeth so their bites can puncture the skin without leaving much of a mark. Sharp puncture bites make it hard to tell if itís a superficial wound or a deeper one. Dog bites tend to cause more visible wounds, so itís easier to tell the difference.
You can end up with a bad scar on your face if a bite there isnít taken care of properly. A bite on the hand is dangerous because a hand is formed in a way that allows infection spread rapidly.
Any wound from an animal bite should be washed out thoroughly and immediately. In the doctorís office or emergency department, the nurse will wash the wound again with sterile water. The doctor will also perform more cleaning and remove any dead tissue.
Doctors will put you on a course of antibiotics when a bite:
People with weakened immune systems may be put on antibiotics regardless.
You will get a tetanus shot if you have not have had one in the past 10 years or you are not sure when you had you your last shot. You may need rabies shots if youíve been bitten by a wild animal. Or bitten by a pet that has become aggressive without explanation and may be exposed to rabies.