Treating Animal Bites:

Puncture wounds from animals should not be treated lightly. Due to the natural structure of the canine teeth, when they are extracted, it forms a type of suction, leaving bacteria sealed within the wound. This bacteria enters into your blood stream and your white blood cells go to work attempting to eradicate them from your system. Based on your own immune system and the nature of the bacteria will dictate whether your body needs assistance through the PROPER antibiotic that would be prescribed by your doctor. Antibiotics in most cases reduce the reproduction capability of bacteria or reduce their ability to do damage, but not actually kill them. The antibodies and white cells in the bloodstream actually kill the bacteria. The antibiotics are supposed to buy time for the host's own immune system to gear up to complete the battle to eliminate the problem. Different antibiotics react differently to different bacteria so it's important to start the battle with the correct one.

Cats seem to have nastier bacteria than dogs and most people end up with more problems from a cat bite than a dog, but both should be watched and treated with care.

Last summer I was bitten very badly in my right hand. I had a combination of puncture wounds and deep tear wounds to my middle finger and thumb. Although there were no broken bones, I had a fair amount of tendon damage and severe bone bruising not to mention torn flesh. Knowing what I know about bacteria, the possibility of infection terrified me more than the thought of loosing the use of my thumb. This is how I handled the situation and now encourage anyone to watch and/or their own wounds based of the severity of them... (I healed fine and have regained most of the flexibility of my thumb)

If it's deep or bad, get your butt to a doctor ASAP. At the doctor's office they soaked and cleaned the wound as best they could. The flesh on my thumb was so torn up it resembled something closer to hamburger. The wounds were also impacted with a lot of dirt given the surroundings and conditions I was bitten at. With animal bites, normally doctors prefer not to stitch so the wounds can drain more naturally allowing for a higher success rate of healing. After consulting with a hand specialist, they injected a heavy dose of antibiotic into my rear. (I'm not sure which was worse, the bite or the injection... I HATE needles...) They then prescribed a heavy dose of antibiotic which I took twice a day for twelve days. I was also instructed to submerge my hand in a warm antibiotic soak (Dial Antibacterial Soap w/water) at least twice a day until the wounds healed.

From there they sent me home where we called another hand specialist who happened to be a sailing buddy of Warren's and the top hand specialist in this area. After Warren described the wounds, he wanted to see me first thing in the morning. (Sunday no less so we head out to his beach house. It was the nicest doctors visit I've ever had... sitting on his deck overlooking Lake Michigan, everyone in beach garb...) He agreed with what the doctors had done the night before but was VERY concerned about the redness that was taking over my whole hand. More over than anything else, this is what you have to monitor. I ending up drawing a line around the redness with permanent marker so I could better assess whether it was receding or moving up into my arm. If it moved AT ALL towards my arm, I was to get to the hospital IMMEDIATELY. That would indication that an infection had set in and that's what kills people if left untreated or not treated in time. He also suggested that I soak at least twice but more if I could to keep the wounds open and draining. Keep dressings on the wounds and keep them slathered with an antibiotic ointment to help keep the dirt out and the wounds from scabbing over. He wanted to see me in his "office" the following day and then twice more to effectively monitor the healing and check on the severity of the tendon damage. I followed the directions to the letter and ended up healing without a problem other than it took a long time. I'm not so sure this would be the same scenario if I had not taken quick action.

What we do now in the school is:

If Minor Wound:

    1. Run wound under cool water for about 15 minutes and encourage bleeding to help remove bacteria for the wound.
    2. Remove any rings from the fingers if the wounds are on the hand.
    3. Slather with antibiotic ointment and bandage lightly.
    4. Monitor redness around would site. Once it seems to have reach it's normal level, outline it with permanent marker. (there will always be some redness associated with wounds but it's the later increase of the movement you need to watch for)
    5. Soak at home with warm antibiotic wash, twice daily.
    6. If anything gets worse, seek immediate medical treatment.

If More Severe:

    1. Run wound under cool water for about 5 to 10 minutes and encourage bleeding to help remove bacteria for the wound and access damage.
    2. Remove any rings from the fingers if the wounds are on the hand.
    3. Wrap wound with a clean towel and seek immediate medical attention.
    4. Follow medical directions to the letter.

Copyrite 1997, Melissa Verplank