dog getting bit

Bite Wounds and Resulting Infections

cat bite

An abscess forms when an infected bite wound heals over on the surface, sealing the infection inside. Fever is generated as the infection incubates. The infected or dying tissue result into a gooey pus. Pus has a foul odor, is suggestive of pain and results in discharge from any opening. Often, this type of wound requires veterinary intervention and can get much worse if left alone.

What to Look for: 

If the abscess or infected tissue has not yet ruptured open, the animal will most likely be feverish, which means you will see listlessness and appetite loss. Depending on how long the area has been swollen, the skin involved may be very tender, bruised or fragile. If you look closely, a small scab from the tooth mark that caused the abscess may still be visible on the surface of the swollen area.

A fluid pocket will form, ultimately rupture and release foul-smelling pus. The fever may break once the rotten tissue is able to drain. You may not see the sore but you probably will smell it.

What your veterinarian will likely do:

  • If the abscess has not ruptured, it will need to be lanced, flushed and cleaned as well as explored. If there is extension of the wound far under the skin, a rubber drain (often called a penrose drian) will need to be placed. This allows infected material and fluid to not accumulate under theskin. It facilitates drainage. 
  • Older abscesses may have enough devitalized overlying tissue to require surgical trimming and stitches. 
  • Your pet will likely need antibiotics to clear the infection. There are pills, capsules, liquids and in some instances a 2-3 week injection that can be given. Based on the wound and the type of bacteria involved, you veterinarian will likely recommend one of these treatments 
  • Warm compresses are helpful for the first few days following discharge. The heat helps liquefy diseased tissues so that they can drain. To hot pack the area, use a warm (not hot) washcloth applied to the wound for 5 to 10 minutes once or twice a day as directed by your pet’s doctor.

Other Important Things

Besides bacteria, there are other infectious diseases that can be spread through bites:

If your pet is a cat, Feline leukemia (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency (FIV) viruses represent serious contagious infections spread by bite wounds. Testing, accomplished by a simple kit that can be done in your veterinarian’s office, ideally should be done 60 days or more from the time of the bite. Outdoor cats should be tested annually for these viruses regardless of vaccination status. 

Rabies is another disease fatal to ALL Mammals (including people) that is spread through saliva entering an open wound. If your pet has not been vaccinated for rabies, it is especially important to make sure this vaccine is current. Since there is no effective treatment for rabies, it is important to consider this simple prevention.

Be sure you understand how to give medication, perform hot packing, and manage rubber drains if your pet has them.  Most abscesses heal over the course of a week, though larger abscesses can take longer. If your cat or dog has a bite, Urban Animal can help! The sooner you bring your companion animal in, the better the outcome for your pet. Early intervention can help prevent formation of an abscess and ensure your pet remains happy with much less pain and discomfort! 

About the author: Hilary Granson

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