According to the CDC, cats bite roughly 400,000 people every year in the United States, and an estimated 65,000 of those bites result in emergency visits to the hospital. While many might dismiss a cat bite as a minor injury, it can have serious health consequences if not appropriately addressed. Even if the wound appears small, seeking medical attention after a cat bite is extremely important.
By understanding the potential risks and complications, you can make informed decisions about your health following such an incident.
Risk of infection from cat bites
One of the main reasons to see a doctor after a cat bite is the risk of infection. Cats have a variety of bacteria in their mouths, including Pasteurella multocida, which can cause a potentially serious infection. Symptoms of infection can include redness, swelling, pain and pus at the site of the bite. The infection can sometimes spread to other parts of the body.
Chance of developing Cat Scratch Disease
Cat Scratch Disease, also known as Bartonella henselae infection, is another risk associated with cat bites. This bacterial infection can cause fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes and fatigue. While it typically resolves on its own over time, in some cases, it can lead to serious complications, especially in individuals with weakened immune systems.
Necessary immunization and treatment
If a cat bites you, a doctor can assess whether you need a tetanus shot or a rabies vaccine, depending on the circumstances of the bite and your immunization history. Tetanus is a serious bacterial disease that affects the nervous system, while rabies is a deadly virus transmitted through the saliva of infected animals.
Seeing a doctor after a cat bite is not an overreaction—it is a prudent step in safeguarding your health. Even if the wound appears minor, a healthcare professional can provide a thorough evaluation and necessary treatment to prevent complications and promote healing.