Before working here in RITM, I didn’t know that there were so many people out there being bitten by animals (commonly by dogs and cats). In an ordinary clinic day, we usually get around 50 consults, all because they were bitten by an animal!
Runners as a group are at an increased risk for being getting bitten by dogs (since we see a lot of them just scattered around when we run) – though the good news so far is that I haven’t yet encountered a runner consulting the clinic for a dog bite…
The greatest danger in getting bitten by an animal is the possibility that that animal may be rabid and may transmit the virus to you through its bite. The problem with contracting rabies is that so far, it still is an untreatable disease. Once you have it, once you develop the typical symptoms of rabies (hydrophobia – fear of water, aerophobia – fear of air (because it causes pain when it hits a patient’s skin, or increased salivation) –> you die within 24 hours. And I assure you, it’s not one quiet, peaceful process.
Hence, the mainstay for management is still prevention. First rule, prevent yourself from getting bitten… second rule, get yourself informed…
WHAT TO DO WHEN BITTEN BY A DOG OR CAT
- DO check if there is bleeding. If there is no bleeding, don’t force it to make it bleed. A bleeding wound is actually more dangerous since it would mean some blood vessels were popped giving the virus an avenue to enter your body.
- DO clean the wound immediately by vigorous (remember: not too vigorous that it can cause bleeding) washing and flushing with soap and water, for at least 10 minutes.
- DO apply alcohol or betadine to the wound.
- DO leash or cage the animal, or ask the dog/cat’s owner to do so, so that it can be observed for 14 days. Have your vet check up on the animal from time to time, especially if it gets sick.
- DO consult your doctor so you can be advised regarding receiving rabies vaccination.
WHAT NOT TO DO WHEN BITTEN BY A DOG OR CAT
- do NOT induce bleeding.
- do NOT apply/rub garlic, papaya, or any agimat (talismans) on the wound – as these may burn the skin and worsen/infect the wound. (From my experience, this is still a very prevalent practice among those getting bitten)
- do NOT have the wound sucked by your local albularyo (quack doctor) in an effort to “remove the toxins.” You don’t know where that mouth has been and by allowing him to suck the wound, more microbes may be introduced into the wound causing other infections.
- do NOT cover the wound with gauze or band aid, especially if the wounds are small, and no longer bleeding, it is better to not cover the wound since exposure to air kills the virus.
- do NOT kill the animal unless needed to do so. Healthy animals need not to be sacrificed.
- a history of rabies vaccination in an animal is not always a guarantee that the biting animal is not rabid or will not develop rabies
- for those who deal with animals constantly (vets, pet lovers, kids with pets), ask your doctor about pre-exposure rabies vaccination –> accidents do happen (and believe me, it does happen a lot)
- the rabies virus is transmitted through the animal’s saliva, meaning even a lick can transmit the virus – especially if the part licked has wounds or broken skin
- rats, and other rodents do not harbour the virus
- other mammals (monkeys, bats) can also transmit the virus
Hope this info is helpful! 😀