Dealing with bite wounds

Cat and dog bites can result in nasty infections no matter how superficial or small the initial wound may seem. This is because the teeth and claws of our pets harbour a variety of bacteria that can enter the wound when a bite or scratch breaks the skin

What to do in the event of a bite or scratch

If your cat or dog has been bitten or scratched, clip the hair and bathe the wound with antiseptic soap or salted water. Only in very superficial wounds will this be all that is needed. If the skin is fully penetrated, antibiotics will often be required. Do not use Dettol (topical antiseptic), especially in cats, as this can lead to tongue ulceration when your cat licks its wounds. Generally, the deeper the tooth or claw penetrates, the more serious the infection. This can result in an abscess forming (collection of pus), cellulitis (inflammation of the subcutaneous tissues and between muscles) steatitis (inflammation of the fat), or a combination of these. In these situations antibiotics with surgical drainage and debridement of damaged tissues is needed. This is especially true if an abscess or steatitis has developed

Surgical treatment

If your pet requires surgical treatment, he/she may come home with a Penrose drain (rubber tubing) stitched into the wound. This promotes drainage and should be bathed daily to keep the opening clear. When fluid drainage stops return your pet to the Vet for drain removal and assessment. Drain removal usually takes place in 3 to 4 days. If other stitches have been placed, these are removed in 10 days. If all has gone well, your pet should have a dry, non-weeping wound without pain or swelling by the end of the antibiotic course. If this is not the case, reassessment is necessary. A continuation of the antibiotic course may be necessary (preferably before the original course has finished), or if deeper tissues (bone or joint) have become involved, a different antibiotic may be indicated for better penetration of these sites