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The Danger of Pet Bites

By: Dr. Debra Primovic

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Dog and cat bites can be extremely dangerous to you. If you have been bitten and are reading this, the safest thing to do is to call your physician or go to your local emergency room.

Pet bites are dangerous for a few different reasons. The mouths of pets harbor several organisms that can cause serious infections. Cat's mouths are known to carry an organism called Pasteurella multocida that can cause serious, life-threatening infections when deposited deep into tissues. These organisms combined with sharp teeth that can either puncture or tear though flesh easily make a dangerous combination.

Dog bites are generally considered crushing wounds due to their exceptionally strong jaws and rounded teeth. Historically, animals teeth are made to kill and tear flesh therefore can cause a lot of damage. Adult dogs can exert 200–450 psi (pounds per square inch) of pressure with their jaws. Damage to muscle, tendons, vessels, nerves and even bone are all possible concerns with any dog bite.

In addition, infections from dog bites commonly occur from Staphylococcus and Streptococcus organisms, and some bites can deposit an even more dangerous organism C. canimorsus (DF-2). This organism carries an increased risk of sepsis, especially in immune-compromised individuals. Any dog or cat bite can cause local infection and cellulitis, but other serious concerns include sepsis, meningitis, osteomyelitis, and septic arthritis.

Both dog and cat bites are dangerous. In some ways, cat bites may be worse because they can appear less damaging. They are often small punctures causing those bitten to blow them off and not seek medical help. However, the bites are often deep and bacteria are essentially injected into the wounds.

Not every pet bite is malicious. Some bites occur when a pet is injured, in pain or disoriented and they happen to lash out at the thing closest to them, which may be you.

Here are some tips on how to prevent bites


  • Pay attention to a pets behavior
  • Don't approach pets you don't know
  • Never put you hand into a yard or car with a pet you don't know
  • Approach injured pets with a great deal of caution
  • If you need to move an injured pet, make a muzzle, tips on how to do that.
  • If a pet is in pain, acting disoriented or abnormal, even if you know this pet or it is your pet, be cautious. Their mental status at that time may not be normal and they could lash out.
  • Don't put your hand into the mouth of a seizing pet.

    If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog or a cat, call your physician right away. Some infections can be delayed and require extensive surgeries for repair. Even small punctures may look like "nothing" can develop into something very substantial. It is also important for your physician to know the rabies vaccination status of the animal that bit you or your loved one so that appropriate treatment can be initiated. Just remember, when it comes to bite wounds it is always better to be safe than sorry.

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