I had a crash course not long ago when I received a puncture wound over 1/2 inch deep in the middle of a one inch gash.
Since then I have made about 10 phone calls to different people (thank you Steph and Tara) about how to deal with it. Here is what I have learned, please feel free to add any info. This is just my personal experience.
First, foremost and MOST importantly: in most states reporting a bite is law. It may be law for both dogs and cats, but you'll have to check with your local health department. Dog is used throughout this post, but you can substitute cat and all the info is the same. A 'bite' is defined by contact by teeth that breaks the skin. if you are bitten by an unknown dog, a dog with an unverified vaccination record, a dog who has bitten before, a dog that is aggressive or if you are bitten while on the job, REPORT THE BITE. If you are bitten by a dog owned by a rescue (that you are fostering, etc) tell the rescue and follow their instructions. PERSONALLY, and this is JUST MY OPINION, a bite under known circumstances by an known dog, due to accident, play, handler error or training does not necessarily need to be reported. BE AWARE that not reporting a bite for any reason may be intentionally breaking of a law.
.5 (most important, and added before 1) Puncture wounds should NOT be stitched shut!!!!! I spoke to four medical professionals before I added this. If you get a bite when (not if) you go to the doctor, if they tell you they are going to stitch the wounds closed, tell them you do not want them stiched. If they insist, tell them you want a second opinion before they do it. Punctures heal from the inside out, and it can take a while. Stitching them seals in the germs and prevents them from draining. This is VERY VERY bad!!! Draining is essential for the wound to heal.
1. All puncture wounds are serious, and never ever just throw a band aid on them and ignore them - this can lead to serious infection and you could end up on IV antibiotics and in the hospital. If the infection spreads (and it will VERY quickly) you could lose a limb. That is NOT said for dramatic effect, an infection deep in muscle tissue can become very serious before it is detected.
2. bleeding / weeping is a good thing. if the puncture wound bleeds it is cleaning itself out. do not squeeze it or fuss with it, just let it bleed and clean itself. If it does not bleed get it treated by a doctor NOW. A closed puncture wound can abcess.
3. drainage is normal, it often looks like watery blood. the wound may 'weep' for weeks until it heals completely. Healing may take a looooong time, the wound heals from the inside out. The discharge is dead cells and lymph fluid. Leave it alone and let it drain.
4. wash it well and rinse it VERY well. Use antibiotic cream instead of ointment, keep it covered most of the time but let it be in open air for a while each day.
5. mild salt soaks make a big difference. use sea salt (not table salt) and warm water. it should be pretty mild, tast it and make sure it is 'no saltier than a potato chip' (kinda weird, but that's what I was told) soak for at least 30 minutes. Sea salt is available at some grocery stores and most health food stores.
6. make sure your tetanus shot is up to date (you need one every 10 years) and of course make sure the dog's shots are all up to date. ibuprophen or asprin will help keep swelling down. Ask for something stronger from your doctor if you want, most will give you a few pills at least.
7. if the wound area gets hard, overly swollen or has red streaks coming out of it get it looked at... NOW. Red streaks coming out of a wound site is an indication of serious infection, possibly cellulitis - and that is nothing to ignore. Deep muscle infections need treatment immediately, it is NOT out of the question to loose a limb or a large portion of a muscle, even with IV antibiotics in the hospital. This is NOT an exadduration, please take the wound VERY seriously. You may hear stories from 'tough guys' about thier 50 bite wounds that they rinsed out with whiskey, poked with a stick to make them drain and covered with duct tape. They played with a loaded gun and happened to win out. Don't be stupid. It's better to be overly cautious and not risk it.
8. get a 10 day course of antibiotics to help you ward off infection. there are gram negative and gram positive antibiotics (I think that is what they are called) so don't just use some you have left over from your last ear infection. The wrong kind can be ineffective.
9. because cats have long and somewhat thin canine teeth, the wounds tend to close up quickly. Cat bites can get VERY serious very quickly, moreso than dog bites. DO NOT FAIL TO HAVE A CAT BITE LOOKED AT BY A DOCTOR AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. I received a cat bite in the palm of my hand, and within an hour the swelling was bad enough that I could barely close it and I was getting red streaks up my wrist. a day on antibiotics made a big difference, but I did get an abcess that took a while to heal.
Last edited by mnp13
on June 12th, 2007, 11:40 am, edited 2 times in total.