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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Nonchalant About Bites

If you're in the veterinary field for long, it's pretty much a given that you're going to be bitten or scratched.  After a while most of us take it as almost a routine occurrence.  Obviously we don't want to get so relaxed that it happens every day, but I receive minor scratches and abrasions several times per year.  I've been bitten numerous times, thankfully never very severe and I only have minor scars from those cases.  What becomes almost amusing is the nonchalant nature some of us take.

A few days ago I was dealing with a cat that started becoming fractious.  It had already been to another vet that day and the owner said it was lunging at that vet.  We got her out of her carrier and at first she acted fine, so we started working with her.  The longer we handled her the more irritated she became, until she started getting aggressive.  At one point she suddenly "flipped out" and managed to squirm out of my grasp.  I made a sudden grab for her, and she managed to land a quick bite on my finger before I was able to get her back under control.  We finished the vaccines, put her back in the carrier, and took her back to the client.

Now first let me say that cat bites can get severely infected very quickly, so nobody should take them lightly.  If you are bit by a cat, seek medical attention, even if the wound is not severe. 

But in my case it wasn't my first rodeo (as we say here in the States).  I've been bitten enough times and been to the doctor enough times that I know how to treat my own wounds.  I washed the wounds out, flushed them with chlorhexidine (a disinfectant), applied antibiotic ointment, and placed simple band-aids.  Then I finished the rest of my day.  It didn't seem bad, but the finger was painful that night and by the next day there was mild swelling, redness, and warmth so I suspected that the bite went deeper than my original impression.  It was just the tip of my left index finger, but I didn't want to have a problem so I went to the doctor.

The ONLY reason I saw a doctor is because I can't legally write a prescription for any humans, including myself.  I think the doctor's office was a little surprised because I had a laid-back attitude about the whole event.  I described what had happened and how I treated it and told the doctor that I knew I was going to be put on Augmentin (amoxicillin & clavulenate....we call it Clavamox in the veterinary field) and was only there because I need a prescription from him.  And like I expected, he really didn't need to do anything to me.  I got my prescription and was out of there pretty quickly.  This exact pattern has happened before (thankfully it's been around 8 years since my last real bite wound), and I get a little amused at the expressions on the human medical team when they realize that I did everything for them.

So how bad is it that I've had enough wounds that I know how to self-treat and know exactly what my physician will do?  When I get this jaded and nonchalant, it's an indication that I've been doing this waaaay too long!


  1. Yup. I mostly feel bad for the horrified owners. Had a 10 y/o golden in this week that was sweet as can be, even for dhpp and rabies vax, but the minute I went to do the intranasal bordetella, she flipped and chomped my thumb. Owner felt so bad. "She didn't break skin, did she?" Well, couldn't lie about that one since my thumb was bleeding. I just told him that she clearly didn't want the nasal vaccine and we'd just switch to injectable. If she'd wanted to do more damage, she would have. Soap, chlorhex, bandaid. No worries. Cat bites on the other hand, if they're deep enough I do take seriously and get on antibiotics.

  2. Those of us who have the "bad" cats (or dogs), who try or do bite a vet or tech, really feel very sorry about it. I have a bad cat, as in when he gets to the vets he's very hard to handle - hisses, growls, tries to get away by any means possible, and will try to bite or scratch if given the opportunity. And he can bite very hard. He's even gotten frightened and bitten me, which resulted in an augmentin rx, so I know exactly how that feels. He gets meds before he goes to the vets, and he still gets handled by getting wrapped up in a towel with a muzzle on, and he's gotten out of both on multiple occassions. I've just been very lucky he hasn't actually managed to bite or scratch the vet or a tech.


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