Most of the time family pets are benevolent balls of fur, but the animal instinct will prevail when a curious toddler gets a little too intrusive. Knowing how to handle animal bites is key in preventing more serious diseases and infections. When a furry frenemy sinks its teeth in, the CAT mnemonic can be used to take the necessary steps to prevent complications from animal bites.
Clean the Wound:
Wipe away dirt off the skin in the surrounding area, then flush the wound with a saline filled syringe, exerting enough pressure to wash away any contaminants. (Saline and syringes are available at local pharmacies.) Apply an antibiotic ointment or cream, such as Bacitracin.
Is the animal a household pet that is unvaccinated? Is it a wild animal? Is the bite in an area that is prone to infection such as on the hands or feet? Is there a deep puncture wound?
If the answer to any of the above questions is yes, call the pediatrician and make an appointment that day, or visit an urgent care center. Pack the bitten child for a trip to the doctor, as he or she will need an oral antibiotic prescription to prevent against a more serious bacterial infection. Typically cat bites are much more likely to get infected as cat incisors tend to pierce the flesh deeply. Dog bites in areas other than the hands, feet, or face do not have to necessarily be treated with oral antibiotics. Kids may also need intervention to protect against rabies, especially if bitten by unvaccinated animals or wildlife, such as woodchucks or raccoons.
Think about Tetanus
If the bite is the result of a frustrated, but vaccinated family pet, not very deep, and in an area other than the hands, feet, or face it may not warrant a doctor’s visit that day. The next step is to confirm if the child had a tetanus shot in the past 7 years. If not, the doctor’s visit can wait until the day after, but it is still necessary to obtain a booster shot.