If you work with animals long enough, eventually you may suffer a bite. In my 35 years of grooming, I am thankful that I have had only a few serious dog or cat bites . I chalk this up to experience and good reflexes, but a few weeks ago I sustained a rather nasty "nip" from a Scottish Terrier. It was his second visit with us. He'd been a model citizen on his first visit, and just as nice on the table this time. He was hand stripped, and I was just pulling one last little bit on his neck when he swung his head and bit the top of my left hand. No growl, no warning.
- If you are injured, secure the animal in a safe place so you can concentrate on taking care of the wound.
- Allow/encourage the wound to bleed a bit, this will help flush bacteria out.
- Wash the wound with clear, running water and mild soap.
- Apply antibiotic ointment.
- Cover the wound with a sterile dressing.
While doing this care, assess the severity to see if medical attention is required. In the case of this bite, I opted not to go to the doctor, but to monitor the wound for infection. Luckily it healed well on it's own. A few years ago I had a single puncture in my forearm by an elderly dog with badly neglected teeth. Within hours I had signs of infection, and went to see my doctor. She threatened to hospitalize me, but I managed to avoid that by taking the prescribed antibiotics, wrapping the arm in a moist compress and a heating pad, and keeping it elevated for hours. Bacteria like to grow within a certain temperature range, and the prolonged heat and elevation, combined with the miracle of modern medicine had me back to work in no time.
Animal bites cannot always be sutured, but this is a decision left to your physician. When in doubt about the severity of the wound, please seek medical attention. Infection is a serious concern with bites, bacteria such as pasturella, staphylococcus, streptococcus or capnocytophaga are frequent culprits. Cat bites are particularly apt to cause infection, so medical attention is strongly encouraged if you are bitten by a feline.
Ascertain that the animal who injured you is up to date on their rabies vaccine. Don't take the pet owners word for it, call their veterinarian to be sure.
Check to make sure that your tetanus vaccine is up to date.
It is my hope that no one reading this ever has to contend with an injury from an animal they are grooming, but if you should, please practice stringent first aid and see your doctor if necessary.