How To Prevent Infections From Animals

Preventing Animal Bites

While dog bites are more common, they are much less dangerous than cat bites.

Your pets may be lovable, but they are animals, so they have the potential to bite. Dogs are much more likely to be aggressive than cats, but cat bites are more likely to cause an infection. Because cats' sharp teeth penetrate farther underneath the skin, as many as 50 percent of cat bites get infected. Wild animals, such as raccoons, squirrels, or rodents, only account for about 5 percent of animal bites each year.

Although animal bites can cause a variety of problems that range from mild skin infections to more serious diseases, such as tetanus and rabies, the vast majority of bites, if treated properly, will leave you with nothing more than a painful reminder to be more careful around animals. If you develop a fever and/or progressive swelling, redness, and pain at the bite site, however, see a physician as soon as possible to be sure you haven't contracted anything through your bite. Likewise, you should visit a physician if you suspect a rabid animal has bitten you.

Follow these steps if you suffer an animal bite:

  1. Thoroughly wash the wound with mild soap and water for three to five minutes.
  2. Treat the wound with an antibiotic ointment and cover it with a clean dressing.
  3. If the bite is on the hands or fingers, see a physician right away. Bites on these body parts are most likely to result in a more serious infection and need to be treated more cautiously.
  4. Watch the wound for the next day or two; if there is any redness, swelling, or pain, it may be infected. If so, head to your physician or the emergency room.

Defensive MeasuresThe most effective way to prevent infection is by curbing risky animal behavior. This requires a two-fold approach: Be sure you and your children know how to deal with animals, and be sure your pets know how to deal with people. Follow these tips:

  • Pets need people. Dogs and cats that are used to being around lots of people are less likely to become aggressive when someone new visits your home. Animals that spend too much time alone tend to be more belligerent.
  • Don't pet strangers. You teach your children not to talk to strangers, but you also should teach them not to approach or pet a strange animal. Even a sweet-looking little kitty can leave a nasty bite or scratch.
  • Avoid aggravation. Teasing his brother is one thing, but teasing the neighbor's dog is another. Be sure kids know not to provoke (kick, poke, pull, or chase) an animal. Never bother a dog that is eating, sleeping, or otherwise engaged.
  • Send Fido to school. Send your dog to obedience school to learn how to handle aggressive tendencies.
  • Give them a shot. Be sure your pets are up to date on their rabies vaccinations, so even if one of them lashes out, there'll be less chance of a serious infection.
  • Neutralize aggression. Neuter your pets as soon as possible (ask your vet about the most appropriate time); pets that are neutered are calmer and less likely to react aggressively.
  • Only watch the wild. Don't go near wild animals. Stay away from raccoons, squirrels, rodents, and other outdoor critters, even if they are hurt. Animals such as skunks and raccoons are nocturnal, so if you see one wandering down the street in the middle of the day, chances are good it is sick and you should head the other direction and call animal control.

In the next section, you will learn about cat scratch fever, another unfortunate infection caused by the otherwise cute and cuddly household pets. You might get cat scratch fever if your cat bites or scratches you, or licks your open wound.This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.