Animal bites can become quite severe very quickly, or lay dormant for a time period. Human, fox, bat, squirrel, cat, and dog bites are the most frequent and the worst snacks in decreasing order inducing cellulites, abscess, and infections of the skin. With the exception of individual bites this is the diminishing order for rabies infection. Rabies is a disease that usually is caused by an animal being bitten by an infected animal. Something similar can happen to a human from this disease process. If you’re stung by a wild animal, pet, or acquaintances pet, you will need to make sure that you have or can get the animal’s immunization records to ensure that they have had their rabies vaccine and it is current. If not you may need to get a rabies vaccine series of shots.
The P’s of pet bites described by Lewis Pasture are still generally true today. Pet’s frequently get a bacterial infection from pasturelli, a bacteria discovered by Lewis Pasture. Peptostreptococcus, staphylococcus aureus, and staphylococcus skin often found in the gingival, the pockets of their pets mouth where the tooth meets the teeth, and in the plaque on the critters teeth. When one of these creatures bites or nips you all the time it’s a superficial scraping that usually drains to the surface.
For some reason cats seem to have a very low incidence with bites of a first showing infection. However, when they do get infected these organisms can be devastating. The farther you go away from the center or down the extremity towards the finger tips or toes, the greater the increased chance of infection because of less blood supply led from such sites. In other words an upper arm or thigh is normally less likely to become infected then the finger tips and toes. Lower extremity bites usually appear to be worse than upper extremities.
Hand bites from cats maybe worse because their kind of tooth structure is much more porus and has more bacteria. The cats penetrates deeper leaving more bacteria therefore getting infected. The wound may be warm, red, and swollen within a few hours. In 12, 24, or 48 hours the wound can truly swell with even 1/4 into a 1/2 cup of pus under the skin. The lymphatic’s can often be involved causing streaks from the site moving up towards the heart. This is known as blood poisoning. The heart pumps blood to the tips of the extremities and the veins usually bring about 99 percent of the blood back. However, the lymphatics bring the infection and this additional 1% back towards the center. Lymphatics are very soft vessels something such as a latex surgical glove. Their diameter is small like a single strand of hair growing into the diameter of a pencil as it nears the heart. They have one way valves, and nodes with high concentrations of cellular antibodies to kill the bacteria. These valves and nodes are often located on the flexor sides of a joint i.e. behind the knees or on the flexor surface.
When you bend these joints you pump this lymphatic fluid back towards the heart and it is purified and hopefully the bacteria are killed before it gets back to the superior vena cava just before the heart. The reddish streaking you see especially frequently in cat bites signals lymphatic infection which is not under control and this can cause blood poisoning, amputation of the extremity, sepsis, and even death without appropriate immediate treatment. Immediate use of tablet antibiotics of a synthetic PCN combined with clavulinic acid which helps stop antibiotic resistance to the germs is necessary. Additionally probably an injection of something like a 3rd generation cephalosporin plus an aminoglycocide like gentamicin with redness and red streaking are probably essential to rapidly stop the infection. The germs twice exponentially about every 20 minutes creating a huge pus pocket, often requiring major substantial surgical drainage. This is often performed in the office but occasionally it’s essential to be done in the O.R. with drains for those who are resistant to immediately starting antibiotic therapy or waiting several days. The present appropriate treatment for an abscess is drainage.
After infection there may be pain for some time and the worry is that the sting may have gone and nicked a bone resulting in a periostal cellulitis of the bone. This may require IV for weeks of therapy. It could need a nuclear bone scan to prove if the bite infected the bone. The bone could become infected without proper care and cause significant and progressive degeneration of the bone marrow and weakening the bone and getting you quite sick. Fever, chills, and rigors, shaking are signs of skin cellulites, abscess, subcutaneous skin, under skin infections, and even sepsis a disease of the bacteria in the blood.
If it is a wild animal that bit you, it generally has to be trapped for diagnosis of rabies. Verification of pet immunizations for rabies is essential and do not hesitate or wait to have this treated by your physician and probably be placed on antibiotics. Many and most infections will only heal from several domestic animals. You will usually know fairly quickly the infected ones will start getting hot and swollen and won’t get any better. When in doubt see your physician. This is an absolute that the earlier the better treatment that has to be evaluated by an experienced physician. Be sure to get your tetanus immunization and keep it current. If you are taking steroids, immune suppression, blood disorders, cancer, major organ disease like kidney failure, heart problems seeing your physician as quickly as possible is much more significant.