Tag Archives: Dog

Straight, No Chaser: Emergency Room Adventures – The Risk of Rabies

You can’t make this stuff up.   It’s another busy night in the ER, and back-to-back patients come in, not related but dealing with the same issue.  One’s a child bitten over the eye by a family dog with no shots.  The next is a teenager attacked by a possum, which he decided to kick in the mouth, and of course he ends up being bitten.  Both of these situations hold a certain risk of rabies exposure.
Rabies is a viral disease transmitted to humans through the bite (or scratch) of an infected animal.  It infects the central nervous system, initially producing a multitude of symptoms that resemble the flu (fatigue, headaches, fever, malaise) and then progressing to exotic symptoms (including fear of water, increase in saliva, hallucinations, confusion and partial paralysis) culminating in death within days.
There is no cure for rabies once symptoms appear, so prevention is critical.
Animals that are especially likely to transmit rabies include bats (the most common culprit in the U.S.), foxes, raccoons, skunks and most other carnivores.

  • Bites from these animals are regarded as rabid unless proven otherwise by lab tests.  These animals must be killed and tested as soon as possible.

Animals that have been reported to transmit rabies include dogs, cats and ferrets.

  • If bitten from these animals, and it appears rabid, treatment must begin immediately.
  • If the biting animal appears healthy and can be observed for 10 days, then do so, but the animal must be euthanized at the first sign of rabies.

Others bites to consider include bites from rodents (woodchucks, beavers and smaller rodents), rabbits and hares, which almost never require post-exposure prophylaxis unless the area is a high rabies exposure area.  In these instances decisions will be made in consultation with local public health officials.
So what should you do if bitten?

  • Remember, there will be no immediate symptoms, so you can’t trust that you’re ok just because you’re feeling ok.
  • Make every effort to secure the animal.
  • Even if the animal isn’t available, go to the nearest emergency room as soon as possible after contact with a suspect animal.

What can you expect?

  • Vigorous wound cleaning
  • Assessment for and possible administration of two different types of vaccinations.  These regimens can prevent the onset of rabies in virtually 100% of cases, one of which needs to be administered in five separate doses over a month’s time.
  • Additional vaccination for tetanus, if appropriate
  • Antibiotics if appropriate.

Remember, rabies is a fatal disease.  It is meant to be avoided, but if you can’t avoid it, you need to get assessed as rapidly as possible.  I hope this information helps you make correct decisions if you’re ever confronted with a rabies prone animal, and for goodness’ sake, please get any house pets all appropriate vaccines.

Straight, No Chaser: Who Let The Dogs Out? Animal Bites

Human Shark Week wouldn’t be complete without reviewing something getting bitten.
Bow-Wow Ows
Dogs bite almost 5 million people yearly, resulting in 800,000 visits to a healthcare provider. Injuries are highest for kids between ages 5-9.
Most dog bites are to the upper extremities (imagine yourself reaching out, petting or slapping a dog), but in kids most injuries are to the head and neck (they’re smaller). Here’s some tips to avoid getting bitten.

  • If you’re considering bringing a dog into your family, remember that dogs or dog breeds with histories of aggression are inappropriate in households with children (I’m talking to you, pit bull owner.). Also, spend time with a dog before committing. If your kids are afraid of any individual dog, hold off. That fear may create cues the dog will pick up on and create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Spaying/neutering a dog actually reduces aggressive tenderness (no puns necessary).
  • Once you’ve acquired a pet dog, please never leave infants or young children alone with the dog. Train your dogs, focusing on submissive behaviors. Do not wrestle or otherwise become overly aggressive with your dog. If your dog develops aggressive tendencies, either get better training, or remove the pet from the household before it’s too late. Don’t disturb your pet if sleeping, eating or caring for puppies. Also avoid staring down your or any dog.
  • Do not approach an unfamiliar dog.
  • Regarding dogs you don’t know: Don’t pet any new dog without allowing it to see your hand and smell you beforehand. Do not run away screaming from a dog and scream; in fact, if you’re approached by an unfamiliar dog, your best move is to remain motionless. If you trip or fall over, roll into a ball and lie still.

Mee-Ow Ows
In general, cat bites and scratches are much worse than dog bites. Cat bites and scratches are more of the puncture wound variety, seeding and walling off very infectious bacteria deep inside of you, which then grow and cause infections. Dog bites are more of the ripping, tearing variety, which poses different problems, but they aren’t as dangerous from an infectious disease standpoint. Cat bites cause skin and blood infections. You’ll know this by warmth, redness, pain, and pus from the wound site. Fever may also be present if the infection is severe enough, and yes, cat bites can be fatal if untreated. You may have heard of ‘cat-scratch fever’. It’s a real phenomenon.
All bite wounds should immediately be washed under high pressure running water but you want to avoid any scrubbing. Pressure to bleeding wounds is important. Time is also important. Both cat and dog bites need to get evaluated. Expect to receive antibiotics in the vast majority of cases. Some bites will require stitches; others will not. That’s a decision for the medical professionals. Treatment may include tetanus and rabies vaccines.
Get in and be seen, especially with cat bites/scratches, which can cause loss of life and limb if not dealt with rapidly and effectively.
By the way, since this is my blog, I’ll just say stop it with letting your dogs lick you and kiss you in the mouth. That’s just nasty (and that’s medically speaking). Don’t you know where their mouths have been?
The Big Yow Wow! Ow
Shark bites are the things of legends, thanks to movies like Jaws and The Deep Blue Sea, which gives the impression that sharks are serial human killers. In fact, there are about 100 shark attacks worldwide yearly, with about 15-20% of attacks being fatal. I doubt that most Straight, No Chaser readers will be shark bait anytime soon, but the first thing I will mention that’s important to know is unlike other attacks by potential predators, playing possum doesn’t work with sharks. Fight back and fight dirty, attacking the eyes and gills. Apparently, sharks like easy food. In case you’ve ever wondered, sharks aren’t biting you because they’re hungry but because they’re curious. They don’t encounter humans often and similar to how a baby puts about anything in its mouth, sharks will take an ‘exploratory bite’. The typical human who swims frequently enough to be in shark infested waters isn’t obese enough to keep sharks’ interest and be a focus of their diets, particularly with so many other options. The other curiosity about sharks is after that first nibble, they tend to back off and wait for prey to die before returning for the kill. They don’t seem to like fighting wounded and aggressive victims. Rather lazy, I’d say.
The real danger in shark bites is the amputation. Single bites of arms and leg can cause enough blood loss and subsequent infection to kill you, just like any other amputation. Obviously a bite to your skull, chest or abdomen can kill instantly. Treatment primarily involves aggressive fluid resuscitation and other life-supportive measures, along with assessment of infection risk with antibiotics as necessary.
The Most Dangerous Animal of Them All
I’ll blog on human bites as a separate topic; it’s that frequent and important. For now, understanding that the human mouth is especially dirty and dangerous should hold you over. In the meantime, pay attention to your household pets and use the tips mentioned to avoid infection.