Why do animal bites get infected?

One of the biggest dangers associated with an animal bite isn't the bite itself, but the infection that happens afterwards. Many animal bites are not remotely life-threatening in the immediate aftermath. While they may bleed, it can often be stopped with bandages. Infections, though, have been known to cause serious complications and even take lives.

It's true that most bites do not become infected. Only 5 to 10 percent of all cat bites that occur are going to become infected, and only around 1 percent of dog bites do. Still, it's important to know why this happens and what to do.

The biggest reason for an infection is bacteria. The bacteria can be in the animal's mouth and on its teeth. When the animal breaks the skin, this bacteria is forced under that protective layer and into exposed tissue. It may get into the bloodstream.

Puncture wounds are notoriously hard to clean out because the teeth can push bacteria far below the upper layer, and the skin and flesh then closes over it and traps it there. When not cleaned properly, an infection may result. A scrape or light cut is easier to clean out, so it may not be as large of a risk for infection as a puncture.

Infections can add weeks or months to the healing process. This could mean that you need to stay in the hospital for an extended period of time. Infections can increase medical bills drastically. If this happens to you, you must know what to do to seek compensation via civil litigation.

Source: Healthline, "What Is an Animal Bite Infection?," Amber Erickson Gabbey, accessed July 02, 2015

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