Cat Bite Infection Symptoms, Complications: First Aid & Treatment

A cat bite can be very painful and you might bleed profusely depending on if he has hit a significant blood vessel. In most cases, they may only scratch you with their teeth or paws even when you are playing.

When a cat bites you, its teeth will dig deep into your skin. Bacteria from the cat’s canine will burrow deep into the skin and later cause an infection if left untreated.

We shall discuss the complications that come with cat bites and how to prevent them. As much you may conduct a cat bite first aid at home, it is advisable that you seek professional medical advice immediately in order to treat or prevent bacterial infection on the wound. Prevention is better than cure.

Are cat bites Poisonous?

Bites from other animals such as snakes, spiders, and scorpions are considered poisonous because of the venom that they inject into the body.

When it comes to cat bites, you cannot rule them as poisonous because there is no venom being injected into the body.

However, the bacteria found in the cat’s mouth will be transferred into the body and cause an infection. The infection may spread to other parts of the body via the blood.

This is referred to as blood poisoning or septicemia. A common bacterium that causes blood poisoning is known as Patseurella multocida.

Apart from blood poisoning, bacterial infection can spread to other parts of the body via tissues that surround the bite. Infection that spread through tissues is known as cellulitis.

Blood poisoning from a cat bites may be fatal if left untreated. People with a weak immune system are likely to get complications from cat bites. A weak immune system is not able to produce enough antibodies to fight off bacteria.

A cat bites on the hand is the most dangerous one since tendons and blood vessels are close to the surface. The infection spreads faster as compared to a bite on other parts of the body.

Cat Bite infection symptoms

Cat bites are as dangerous as bites from any other animal. They may be perceived as friendly domestic pets but if you rattle a cat and get bitten then it is a different story altogether.

A cat bite is likely to lead to an infection because the mouth of a cat is full of harmful bacteria.

After a cat bite, you should seek immediate medical attention in order to treat an infection. The following are symptoms that are associated with an infection caused by cat bite;

  1. Swollen, painful red bump on the skin
  2. Fever
  3. Flu-like symptoms e.g. running nose 
  4. Headache
  5. Swollen lymph nodes

How long can cat bite infection set in

Cat bite infection spreads and sets in within hours. The infection may cause permanent damage to cartilages within 24 hours if left untreated. This is why I still insist that you need to treat cat bites as an emergency and rush the patient to the nearest hospital for treatment.  

Cat bite infection complications   

Cat bites are likely to cause complication because it causes a sharp deep but tiny piercing into the skin that seals off quickly and traps bacteria from the cat’s mouth deep inside the skin.

If not contained as soon as it develops, cat bite infection will spread to surrounding tissues and other parts of the body through your blood. This may lead to a severe complication. Cat bites on the hands may even warrant amputation of the hand.

The hand is very sensitive since the tissues and tendons are near the surface and the population of antibodies in this region is very low.  A bite on the hand will have the infection spreading fast like a bush fire.

It may end up destroying the joints and bones on the hand. Never underestimate a cat bite it may lead to amputation of your body parts.

The following are the most common complications you’re likely to get from cat bite infection. People with compromised immune systems have lower chances of surviving these complications.

The immune system is lowered by a disease like HIV, Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Cancer. Old age also weakens the immune system.

1. Sepsis

 Sepsis is a fatal complication caused by a bacterial infection that is resistant to the medication use does treat tithe medicine causes inflammation throughout the body in an attempt to fight the bacteria causing infection.

Blood will eventually find its way into some crucial organs like the brain, heart or kidney and cause organ failure. This leads to death. A patient who has been diagnosed with sepsis will experience fever, increased heart rates and shortness of breath.

2. Meningitis

Meningitis is a disease characterized by inflammation of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord. A bacterium known as Pasteurella multocida that is founding the mouth of a cat is associated with meningitis.

The bacteria are injected into your bloodstream from the teeth of the cat and it attacks the membranes surrounding your brain or spinal cord. Symptoms of meningitis are;

  1. High fever
  2. Severe headache
  3. Seizures
  4. Lack of appetite
  5. Rashes
  6. Stiff neck and stiff joints

Meningitis can lead to other complications such as permanent brain damage, kidney failure, seizure, stroke, and even death.

“Bacterial meningitis is serious, and can be fatal within days without prompt antibiotic treatment. Delayed treatment increases the risk of permanent brain damage or may lead to death. It’s also important to talk to your doctor if a family member or someone you work with has meningitis. You may need to take medication to prevent getting the infection

Acording to Mayo clinic

3.     Endocarditis

When the bacteria from the mouth of a cat gets into the bloodstream and spread to the linings of the heart.

These bacteria will destroy the inner linings of the heart. This will result in fatal conditions such as stroke, seizure, kidney failure or enlargement of the spleen.

The good news is that this condition is treatable by antibiotics or cardiac surgery. People who already have heart problems are at a greater risk as compared to those with normal fully functional heart.

Symptoms to check out for include;

  1. Lethargy
  2. Blood in urine 
  3. Swollen limbs
  4. Increased perspiration especially at night 
  5. Shortness of breath
  6. Chest and joint pains
  7. Enlarged spleen

This complication may end being fatal if not contained in good time.

4. Osteomyelitis  

This condition refers to infection of the bones after bacteria find its way into the bloodstream.  Patients who suffer from diabetes or HIV are more prone to this infection and it may never heal completely even after treatment.

It may come back, therefore, treatment involves trying to contain the damage since it is almost impossible to get rid of the entire infection. Surgery may be recommended if the antibiotics fail to contain the damage.

Early detection treatment of this infection will save your life. Your doctor will have to conduct a bone biopsy in order to diagnose you with this condition. The most common symptoms associated with osteomyelitis include;

  1. Lethargy
  2. Restlessness
  3. Nausea
  4. Fever
  5. Inflamed tendons around the affected bones
  6. Severe back pains

Amputation of the affected limb is usually the last option of treatment. The doctors will try their best to contain the situation unless it gets to a point where they have no choice.

Minor cat bite

Minor cat is bites that just graze the skin and does not go deep into the flesh. They are less likely to cause infection since the cat’s teeth do not penetrate deep into the skin. Minor cat bites can be treated at home using antiseptic agents and over the counter antibiotic creams.

However, any bite by a wild cat whether mild or severe should be checked by a doctor. Wild cats are full of bags as compared to domestic cats.

Cat bites first Aid. What to do at Home

Animal bites are often accidental hence it is important to be equipped with knowledge of what to do. You may save your own life or someone else.

These bites cause bacterial infections that lead to a complication that have to be treated by a professional doctor. Before you go to the hospital you are required to administer the first aid.

What to do

  1. Clean the wound using clean water and antibacterial soap 
  2. Use a clean towel to establish pressure on the wound for about 10 minutes in order to stop the loss of blood.   
  3. Dab the wound with a mild solution of hydrogen peroxide. It is an antibiotic.
  4. You may also use over the counter t antibiotic creams instead of the hydrogen peroxide.
  5. Wrap the wound with a clean gauze
  6. Ensure that the affected area is kept raised above your heart

The above first aid tips will reduce your chances of getting an infection. If you are on another type of medication or is pregnant then do not use over the counter medication without consulting your doctor.

Cat Bite Treatment

Treatment of cat bite is by antibiotics since the infection is caused by bacteria. As discussed earlier, mild bites do not require you to go to a hospital. Disinfecting the wound and applying antibiotic cream is enough to prevent any further infection.

If your immune system is strong you will also be able to fight off the bacteria naturally without the help of antibiotics. We shall discuss the antibiotics in details.

However serious cat bites will have to be accessed by your doctor via an x-ray to evaluate how deep the bite is and how much damage it is likely to cause.

After performing the first aid on the wound you need to seek medical help as soon as you can. Early treatment of an infection will save you from getting the kind of complications that have been discussed above.

A bite from a while card require emergency treatment as compared to a domesticated cat that gets vaccinated. A wild cat bite should not be handled at home only. Bites by wild cats are likely to lead to complications.

Cat Bite Antibiotics

Antibiotics are drugs that are drugs that are used to treat bacterial infections.  Antibiotics will fight and kill the bacteria hence treat the infection. Amoxicillin is the most common antibiotic that is recommended by doctors as antibiotic prophylaxis.

Other antibiotics that are ideal for treating cat bites are cephalexin, Doxycycline, Metronidazole, and Ciprofloxacin. People who have diseases that weaken the immune system have to use antibiotics to boost the immune system.

 This should also be done for rabies well. Rabies in cats has been discussed in details in the next subtopic.

Can cat bite cause rabies

Yes! Most domestic cats that get veterinary care are unlikely to have rabies so the chances of you getting infected from such are quite minimal. When you get bitten by a wild cat then you have to get tested for rabies and get rabies shots.

Just like other untamed carnivores, bites by wild cats are likely to cause rabies. Your doctor will recommend 5 rabies shots within 2 weeks, 2 of which will be administered as soon as you get bitten and the remaining three will be spread out evenly.

Cats that have rabies tend to be very aggressive and restless. Their appetite also drops. Ensure you take your cat to a vet for a check-up when it begins to exhibit an unusual change in character. You never know who among your households will fall a victim of a cat bite.

Read more about Cat deafness

There is no accurate test to diagnose rabies in live animals. The direct fluorescent antibody test is the most accurate test for diagnosis, but it can only be performed after the death of the animal. The rabies virus can incubate in a cat’s body anywhere from just one week to more than a year before becoming active. When the virus does become active, symptoms appear quickly.

According to

A cat is a carnivorous animal hence its dental formula is designed to have sharp strong canines for tearing into flesh. Cat bites should be handled as an emergency especially if it’s a wild untamed cat without vaccines. 

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