Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Pet Bite Injuries:
K-STATE VETERINARIAN SHARES TIPS TO MINIMIZE RISK OF BITES AND BITE-RELATED INFECTIONS
MANHATTAN -- When a dog or cat bites, an infection can follow.
"Wounds that are most likely to become infected are those on the face and hands or when people wait more than eight hours before seeking medical attention," said Dr. Kate Stenske, a clinical assistant professor at Kansas State University's College of Veterinary Medicine. "If you are bitten, first wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water, and then call your physician right away."
Stenske said that bite wounds can become infected because dogs and cats both harbor a mixture of aerobic and anaerobic bacteria in their mouths. Bites are an ideal way for bacteria to be transmitted, she said, because teeth damage tissue, making it more prone to infection.
"Cats especially have very sharp little teeth, so they can inject bacteria deep into a person's skin without causing much of an external wound," Stenske said. "Some of the more common bacteria we worry about are Pasteurella, Bacteroides, Fusobacterium and Streptococcus. We also worry about the potential spread of the rabies virus from animals to people through bite wounds."
Some bite-induced infections can't be blamed on pets, she said. Bite wounds can be contaminated with bacteria people carry on their skin, rather than bacteria from the pet's mouth.
Bites are a public health concern, she said. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, more than 4.7 million people in the United States are bitten by a dog each year. Most dog bites, Stenske said, are from dogs owned by the victim's family, friends or neighbors.
"Children ages 5-9, especially boys, are at greatest risk of dog bites and tend to have the most severe injuries, probably because of their size and proximity to dogs, their loud noises, fast movements, unintentional provoking, and not understanding the dog's body language."
Stenske said it's important to understand that any dog can bite, even cute, friendly dogs you have known for years.
"If they are put in a new and threatening situation, they may bite," she said.
To minimize the risk, she said it helps to recognize subtle signs of fear, nervousness or aggression in a dog. It also helps to neuter your dog or cat, train and socialize them and use a leash when outside. When it comes to strange dogs, Stenske said, it's best to never approach them. If a strange dog approaches you, she said veterinarians advise children to "stand still like a tree," or if on the ground to "curl up like a rock."
"Waving your arms, running or making noise will keep the dog's interest, while staying perfectly still will encourage the dog to walk away," she said.
For more information on dog bite prevention, Stenske suggests visiting the American Veterinary Medical Association's Web site at: http://www.avma.org/public_health/dogbite/