Animal bites should be taken seriously

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 8, 2011

Last Friday started out just like any other day.

One of our regular cat clients came in to get groomed. He is a 20 year old cat that comes to our shop on a regular rotation.

He was getting cut down short and everything was going great. Then, without warning, he bit me. Not a ripping-me-apart bite, just one little hole at the base of my thumb.

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I have had little nips like that before, so just like any other time, I reached for the peroxide and cleaned it thoroughly and went on. This happened late morning and I finished the day without giving it another thought. Got home, mowed the grass, and then headed to the shower.

I noticed my hand felt a little tight, so I looked down at my hand and after several hours my hand had begun to swell, was red, and hot to the touch.

I got out of the shower and showed Kate, my wife and co-worker, my hand. She told me to get to urgent care immediately.

Hesitant on making the trip to urgent care, I went to the computer to diagnose myself. After seeing that I had every sign of an infection, I agreed to have my hand looked at.

After getting it examined, the doctor told me it was definitely infected. He prescribed me a course of antibiotics. He told me that cat bites have a high rate of infection and that if I noticed red streaks coming from the bite point, come back immediately.

Well, the next morning I had an inch wide red stripe from my wrist to my armpit. I went back to urgent care on Saturday morning and this time I was given a shot and more antibiotics.

By the next day I was back to 100 percent, but the urgent care staff informed me that these types of infections are extremely dangerous and left untreated can cause serious illness and even death.

I was told that cat bites have a higher rate of infection than dog bites, because dog bites usually tear more and are easier to clean. Cat bites usually only puncture, which make it difficult to disinfect.

According to an American Family Physician report, approximately 300,000 visits are made to the emergency room every year due to animal bites. Up to 10,000 of those are admitted to the hospital and 20 end up fatal. Animals carry all kinds of pathogens in their mouth, which can easily cause an infection.

I knew this cat was up-to-date on vaccinations, definitely a plus. I also, just had a tetanus shot four months prior. If you are bit by a stray animal, the doctor may even recommend starting you on a course of shots to prevent rabies.

There is no test to detect rabies and no symptoms appear until it is too late, so these shots prevent the disease from becoming fatal. Another good reason to vaccinate your pet.

So, if you are ever bit or scratched by an unfamiliar animal or even a family pet, immediately clean it and watch closely for any sign of infection. If you have any doubt at all, get it looked at by a medical professional.

The earlier an infection is treated, the better. A huge thank you to the urgent care staff, Lawrence County Health Department staff, and my favorite nurse, Tammy Barker. Remember, every dog deserves to be treated like a show dog.

Tony and Kate Barker are certified pet groomers who own and operate The BARKer Shop in Ironton. For questions, call 740-534-0088.