Cat bites are more dangerous than previously thought, according to a study in the current issue of The Journal of Hand Surgery. The study found that a cat bite can actually be quite a serious injury that could cause infections which can ultimately lead to hospitalization. The fact that one out of every three victims from a cat bite ends up at the hospital is arguably the most shocking statistic from the research.
The February issue of The Journal of Hand Surgery featured a three-year long study in which researchers analyzed the records of 193 patients who went to the hospital for cat bites on their hands. The study was held at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Research showed that out of the 193 patients, 57 of them were hospitalized for an average of around three days. Cat bite victims who had to undergo surgery came in at 38 patients, and eight victims needed more than one surgery.
Oral antibiotics were the most prescribed medication given to patients, but the drugs did not successfully work for the patients who ended up needing surgery. Complications that patients experienced from being bitten by cats include “nerve involvement, abscesses and loss of joint mobility,” which led them to receive medical attention.
The reason that cat bites are more dangerous than people have previously thought has to do with the infections that can be caused by the common house cat. A cat’s mouth contains nearly the same amount of bacteria that a dog’s mouth contains. But it is the sharp teeth that cats possess, which punctures the skin and leaves it vulnerable to infections.
An aggressive bacteria known as Pasteurella multocida is the main cause of infection from a cat bite. This bacteria is found in the mouth of around 90 percent of cats in good health, and “amoxicillin is commonly used to treat it.” Signs that there may be an infection caused by the bacteria include “redness, swelling, increasing pain, difficulty in moving the hand and drainage of the wound,” and it is a vital warning sign to seek medical attention.
Compared to dogs, cats have a much more dangerous bite because of their sharper teeth. Dogs have teeth that are “blunter” than a cat’s, and they “don’t tend to penetrate as deeply as they tend to leave a large wound after they bite,” according to a senior author in the study. A dog bite is the most common type of animal bite that is treated in hospitals around the nation. While a typical dog’s teeth are relatively blunt, they can still “tear flesh and break bones.” The main difference between a dog bite and a cat bite is the infection that can be caused, and a dog bite is less likely to cause an infection.
The new study that was published shows how cat bites are more dangerous than once previously thought, and is a warning to the general public to beware of a cat’s bite. Even though just 10 to 15 percent of all animal bite victims that head to the emergency room suffer from cat bites, they can be some of the most troublesome animal bites because of the infections they can cause.
By Glen Parris
New York Times