Each year Hospital Emergency Departments treat thousands of animal bite wounds. Dog followed closely by cat bites cause the highest percentages.
Seventy seven percent of these bites are to the face, neck or head on children under the age of ten. With the largest percentage being, face wounds generally to the lips, nose, and cheeks.
What Big Teeth You Have
Any animal that has been mistreated or feels threatened is libel to bite. Even the family pet if in pain or is provoked may retaliate.
To avoid bite accidents occurring do not leave your child to play with an animal unsupervised.
Never try to separate fighting animals as they may turn on you.
Never disturb an animal when it is sleeping by startling them, they may bite in fear unintentionally. The same applies when they are eating as they may bite to protect their meal.
Do not instantly approach a pet and expect to pat it; this particularly applies to stray pets. Even a pet on a leash may have a fear of strangers and bite. Always ask the owner if it is safe to pat the animal.
Children playing with cats and dogs should do so under constant supervision. It is easy for a dog or even a cat to become over exuberant in a game and accidentally bite causing injury.
Don’t try to pick up sick or wounded animals, they may try to stop you due to pain, by the only defence they have available, their teeth.
Discretion is the Better Part of Valour
Most importantly, never run from a strange dog. Although domesticated, old instincts still dwell within the modern dog. A dog sees anyone fleeing as potential prey as its primal instincts take over.
If you must retreat from a strange dog, stand as erect as possible and do not crouch, try to appear as large as possible. Avoid direct eye contact with the dog; dogs see eye contact as a direct challenge to them. Back away in a deliberate, slow manner with no sudden movements. When you are out of harm’s way inform your local Animal Control Authority. You may have been fortunate by not being bitten but the next person may not be so lucky.
When it Comes to the Crunch
If you are bitten but there is no puncture wound it does not mean damage has not been done. The design of Dog and Cat jaws give them a powerful crushing force; this can cause damage to underlying soft tissue and may lead to bruising and discomfort. If there is no break in the skin, wash the area with soap and water. Apply cold compresses to help reduce the bruising.
If the animal’s teeth penetrate the skin, assess the severity of the wound. Calm and reassure the bitten person, as there will be some shock.
If the wound is not bleeding severely wash it with a mild disinfectant and allowed to soak in the disinfectant for a few minutes to kill any bacteria that may have entered the wound. If no disinfectant is available running water will do as a substitute. Cover the bite and surrounding area with a topical antiseptic ointment and apply a stick-on dressing.
If the animal’s teeth have penetrated deeply or there is intense bleeding apply pressure with a clean, dry cloth to help slow the blood flow. Elevate the wounded appendage if possible and seek immediate medical attention.
If a bite is to the face, neck, or hands and looks as if it is deep or if there is a large area of damage immediately call an ambulance and attempt to staunch the blood flow.
If the wound is bad enough it may require stitches and if your tetanus vaccination is not up-to-date you will require one of those as well.
Bites of a severe nature can cause serious damage to nerves and tendons. Suspect this type of injury if the victim cannot bend and straighten their fingers or have no feeling at their fingertips. This form of injury requires immediate hospital attention.
After the wound has been attended to it is wise to keep an eye on it for the next 48 hours for signs of infection. If there is any redness around the wound and surrounding skin area, swelling or severe pain revisit your medical practitioner or the Emergency Department of your local hospital.
Infection is the Enemy
Infection is more likely to result from a cat bite as cats teeth are designed to penetrate deeply. Once they penetrate, they can carry bacteria deep into the lower tissues of the injury causing a deep-seated infection.
Bite wounds are serious and do leave people scarred for life. With sensible precautions, injury is avoidable. However, if you or someone you know is bitten, swift first aid treatment can save them a lot of suffering.