Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Cat Saliva: Venom or Antidote??

There are a lot of myths swirling around with regard to the supposedly "medicinal" or healing properties of cat saliva, which is thought to be much cleaner than our own. The same story goes for dog saliva as well, often to a much greater extent. This conception arises mostly out of the simple fact that cats and dogs lick themselves (often obsessively) to clean themselves or to tend to wounds. But the simple facts are:

* Yes, cats, dogs, and humans have anti-septic enzymes in their saliva that can help clean wounds and aid healing.

* But cats, dogs, and humans also have enough bacteria in our saliva to make matters worse. The risk of infection outweighs the potential benefits, and because of better veterinary treatments available, we discourage pets from licking their wounds today.

* Cats have a much higher bacterial concentration in their saliva compared to both humans and dogs. Generally, dogs have the cleanest mouths of the bunch!

What makes cat bites problematic is the fact that their teeth are narrow and sharp, and their puncture wounds can be deceptively deep, often causing tissue damage that is not easy to detect from the relatively small hole that is left.

Whether you're dealing with a human or another cat or dog, cat bites should be handled with a level of urgency because of the high risk of serious infection. Over 85 percent or cat bites carry bacteria or pathogens of some kind, and indoor cats are by no means exempt. Bites can easily cause infection, and the resulting symptoms can range wildly from soreness to life threatening complications if left untreated

While it is true that dogs are responsible for the majority of animal bites (over 80 percent compared to 10 percent for cats), the risk of infection is much more serious for cats. Nearly 50 percent of cat bites result in some degree of infection, compared to under 20 percent for dogs. In addition, cats can also infect humans with their claws, as the cat's claws can carry the bacteria from their mouth. This is known as "cat-scratch disease." It usually involves a swelling of the lymph nodes, and can be tricky to diagnose as symptoms can take a week or two or sometimes longer to arise.
Always treat the puncture site with anti-bacterial ointment and/or prescription antibiotics as directed by a health professional. Monitor the bite or scratch for signs of infection, which include redness and swelling. Often it helps to make a mark on your skin where the edges of the redness appear as to track any change. You should take these precautions even if your own cat accidentally scratches you or catches you with its teeth, no matter how cute and cuddly and clean you think they are.

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