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The Bite Is Worse Than The Meow

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(credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

(credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Dr. Dave Hnida By Dr. Dave Hnida
CBSDenver.com Blogger
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The vast majority of bites — animal or human — are from the jaws of a dog. The figure is about 90 percent plus. But the worst of bites may be that of the feline.

Cat bites make up smaller percentage of teeth-to-skin, but by far, make up the highest percentage of infections and complications.

A new study from the Mayo Clinic says one-in-three cat bites become infected to the point where humans on the receiving end require hospitalization.

The reason: even though dog mouths contains as many germs, and human bites contain nastier germs, cat bites do the kind of damage the others often don’t.

Cat teeth are like mini-needles — they penetrate deep and inject their germs farther into the tissue (usually a hand or wrist), where the bacteria can take off like a wildfire, leading to permanent loss of use of a hand or finger (or other body part.)

Those pointy teeth can easily penetrate a tendon, or some other important structure –and since those are deeper areas hard to cleanse, the germs quickly multiply and eat away at those structures.

That’s not to say I’d rather care for a dog bite or human bite over a cat bite. I don’t.

Dog bites typically tear and crush tissue, while human bites usually are more gaping (and located on the knuckles of fingers that had a run-in with punch to someone’s mouth.)

They all need cleaning, and they almost all need antibiotics.

But when I see a cat bite, I really scrub them, antibiotic them, and make sure people understand that even with the best of care, the bites can get red, inflamed, and painful from infection. And sometimes a quickly as within a couple of hours.

Even though a hand might swell to the size of a boxing glove, it’s the severe pain that is the sign of bad things happening.

The message: don’t ignore or downplay any bite. But be especially cautious when it comes from the fangs of that sweet, cuddly, kitty cat.

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