How to Treat a Rat Bite or Scratch

Different Ways Treat a Rat Bite or Scratch

Rod Brouhard is an emergency medical technician paramedic (EMT-P), journalist, educator, and advocate for emergency medical service providers and patients.

Michael Menna, DO, is a board-certified, active attending emergency medicine physician at White Plains Hospital in White Plains, New York.

Before we get into treating a rat bite, for prevention, remember that the best thing to do is to stay safe when a rat is near you. Don’t approach a wild rat — generally, they are more afraid of you than you are of them — but don’t count on it. If the rat is a pet and its owner is around, instruct him or her to secure the rat. Rats will bite or scratch if frightened or handled, so leave them alone.

Illnesses Caused by Rat Bite

If you do get bitten by a rat, the main concern is developing an infection. One such infection is known as rat-bite fever (RBF), which can be transmitted either through an infected rat’s bite or scratch or by simply handling a rat with the disease.   It can also be contracted by eating food or drinking water contaminated by rat feces.

The two bacteria responsible for rat-bite fever are:

  • Streptobacillus moniliformis (most common in the United States)
  • Spirillum minus (most common in Asia)

The signs and symptoms of infection from each bacteria are slightly different. The good news is that rat-bite fever can be effectively treated with an antibiotic. If left untreated, though, rat-bite fever can be potentially fatal.  

Streptobacillus Rat Bite Fever

Watch for the following symptoms and seek medical attention right away if you experience one or more of the following symptoms or signs:  

  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting
  • Pain in the back and joints
  • Rash on the hands and feet, usually accompanied by one or more swollen joints. This rash usually appears two to four days after the fever.

Symptoms of rat-bite fever usually appear three to 10 days after the exposure or a bite but may occur up to three weeks later. In most cases, the actual bite or scratch wound is healed by the time the fever starts.

Spirillum Rat Bite Fever

Symptoms of spirillum RBF usually come on one to three weeks after being exposed to an infected rodent. They are more variable than streptobacillus RBF, but may include:  

  • Fever, which may reoccur after it resolves
  • Irritation and a possible ulcer at the bite wound
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Swelling around the wound site
  • A rash that starts after the wound begins to heal

The symptoms associated with Haverhill fever (another form of rat-bite fever that comes from ingesting contaminated food or fluids) may develop severe vomiting and a sore throat.  

First Aid When Bitten or Scratched

There are several steps that you can and should take:

  • Control the bleeding and clean the wound with soap and warm water. Clean inside the wound, be sure to rinse away all the soap, or it will cause irritation later.
  • Cover the wound with a clean, dry dressing. You can put antibiotic ointment on the wound before covering. Rat bites often lead to infection. If the injury is on a finger, remove all rings from the injured finger before it swells.
  • Watch for these signs of infection:  
    • Redness
    • Swelling
    • Heat
    • Weeping pus
  • If you are not the victim, practice universal precautions and wear personal protective equipment if available.
  • Care should always be taken to contain any rodent after a bite to determine if the animal has an infection.

When to See the Doctor

Always consult your doctor after a rat bite. You may need a tetanus immunization or you may need stitches. Wounds on the face or hands are a special concern due to the risk of scarring or loss of function and should always be evaluated by a physician.

Treatment

Rat-bite fever should always be treated by the doctor in order to heal completely. If untreated, rat-bite fever can be serious. The doctor will prescribe antibiotics for both types of fever, which usually include:

  • Amoxicillin
  • Penicillin
  • Erythromycin
  • Doxycycline

Patients with severe forms of rat-bite fever that affect the heart could get high-dose penicillin and either streptomycin or gentamicin.  

A Word From Verywell

Remember, infection is the major concern with any animal bite, particularly from rats. Keep the area as clean as possible throughout healing.

Also, it is interesting to note that rats are not a major source of rabies infection — a common misconception. In fact, we get rabies from bats more often than any other animals. Raccoons are the species most likely to have rabies, followed by bats, skunks, and foxes. Rabies transmission from rodents to humans is extremely rare.

www.verywellhealth.com

What Do I Do When My Dog Gets Bit by a Rat?

A dog bitten by a rat is susceptible to a wide range of diseases that are potentially life-threatening to both the pet and its owner. The dog requires immediate veterinary treatment. It is also necessary to understand the type of symptoms that your dog may display, which could be signs of rodent communicable diseases such as leptospirosis, rabies and rat bite fever. Monitor your dog and incorporate preventive measures to ensure that it does not contract a fatal disease.

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First Aid and Treatment

Provide first aid by cleaning and disinfecting the bitten area with an antiseptic. Dress the wound by bandaging it with an absorbent gauze pad and adhesive tape. You can also give your dog an antibiotic after consultation with your vet. Take your dog to the vet for an accurate diagnosis. The vet will perform laboratory tests to ascertain whether your dog has contracted any disease. The tests are necessary so that an appropriate course of treatment can be prescribed and complications can be avoided.

Understand Symptoms

The results of the diagnostic tests, coupled with a close monitoring of any symptoms displayed by the dog, will aid the treatment and cure. A dog that has contracted leptospirosis may display any of several symptoms, including severe thirst, increased urination frequency, high temperature, abdominal pain, depression, mouth ulcers, coated tongue, bloody stools, jaundice and persistent vomiting. Dogs experiencing rat bite fever do not display any symptoms, while a rabies-infected dog may manifest radical behavioral changes — either extreme docility or ferociousness — copiously salivate and suffer from paralysis.

Supervision

Dogs that have not received immunization shots against rodent communicable diseases should be isolated and kept under observation during and after the treatment period. Isolation and supervision are necessary for at least six months to prevent any fatal outcomes for both the dog and owner.

www.cuteness.com

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Written by: Esperance Barretto

Written on: February 04, 2019

A dog bitten by a rat is susceptible to a wide range of diseases that are potentially life-threatening to both the pet and its owner. The dog requires immediate veterinary treatment.

It is also necessary to understand the type of symptoms that your dog may display, which could be signs of rodent communicable diseases such as leptospirosis, rabies and rat bite fever. Monitor your dog and incorporate preventive measures to ensure that it does not contract a fatal disease.

First Aid and Treatment

Provide first aid by cleaning and disinfecting the bitten area with an antiseptic. Dress the wound by bandaging it with an absorbent gauze pad and adhesive tape. You can also give your dog an antibiotic after consultation with your vet. Take your dog to the vet for an accurate diagnosis. The vet will perform laboratory tests to ascertain whether your dog has contracted any disease. The tests are necessary so that an appropriate course of treatment can be prescribed and complications can be avoided.

Understand Symptoms

The results of the diagnostic tests, coupled with a close monitoring of any symptoms displayed by the dog, will aid the treatment and cure. A dog that has contracted leptospirosis may display any of several symptoms, including severe thirst, increased urination frequency, high temperature, abdominal pain, depression, mouth ulcers, coated tongue, bloody stools, jaundice and persistent vomiting. Dogs experiencing rat bite fever do not display any symptoms, while a rabies-infected dog may manifest radical behavioural changes — either extreme docility or ferociousness — copiously salivate and suffer from paralysis.

Supervision

Dogs that have not received immunisation shots against rodent communicable diseases should be isolated and kept under observation during and after the treatment period. Isolation and supervision are necessary for at least six months to prevent any fatal outcomes for both the dog and owner.

Prevention

Ensure that you vaccinate your dog against rodent communicable diseases, as it is a key preventive aid. Use pest-control measures to destroy rats in your vicinity. When walking your dog, always keep it on a leash to prevent it from being bitten by a rat or wild animals, such as raccoons, that are carriers of rat diseases.

www.ehow.co.uk

What to Do with a Dog that Bites Their Owner

Dog Training By Erin Jones 9 min read September 30, 2019 9 Comments

One of the most difficult and heartbreaking issues dog owners may face is a bite from their beloved pup.

Once that trust is broken, it can be incredibly difficult to regain.

There are many reasons your dog may bite you. She could be guarding her resources, she may be feeling anxious or stressed, or maybe she is redirecting her aggressive behavior toward you.

But the question remains: What do you do if your dog has bitten you?

Below, we’ll explain exactly what to do after a bite occurs.

This not only includes the things you’ll want to do in the immediate aftermath, but we’ll discuss some of the reasons your dog may have bitten you, and what steps you’ll want to take to address the problem.

We’ll even talk about the most horrifying question an owner may ever be compelled to ask: Do I have to put my dog down?

Immediate Action: What Do You Do Right After Your Dog Bites You?

Bites are not only concerning, but they can also be unexpected and frightening. You’ll likely be feeling a range of emotions, on top of any physical pain the bite has caused.

Just take a deep breath and take one step at a time.

Secure Your Canine After a Dog Bite

The first thing you will need to do is secure your dog to prevent any further problems.

You can put her into a crate, confine her in a separate room or tether her using a leash.

Depending on the situation, she may still be reacting aggressively, she may be frightened, or she may be worried about your emotional reaction. She could also remain highly aroused by the situation that caused her to bite in the first place.

But no matter the reason for the bite, securing her will ensure that you (and everyone else in the vicinity) remains safe.

Provide First Aid Following the Dog Bite

After ensuring that your pooch is put away or otherwise sequestered in a safe manner, you’ll need to assess the wound.

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Did she break your skin? Is there a puncture? If so, you’ll need to clean it with soap and water and wrap it in a clean bandage.

But if the wound is significant, if you suspect you may need stitches, if you are overdue for a tetanus shot, or if your dog’s rabies vaccines aren’t up-to-date, you’ll want to head to the hospital or an urgent care center and obtain professional medical treatment.

Despite popular belief, dog’s mouths are not completely sterile nor free of bacteria. Accordingly, your doctor may also prescribe antibiotics to prevent an infection from developing.

If the broken skin is more of a scratch than a serious wound, you can usually just clean it with soap and warm water, apply an antiseptic cream, and cover it with a bandage.

But obviously seek medical assistance if any bite wound doesn’t heal quickly or it starts to look red, inflamed, or infected.

Reapproaching Your Dog

Even if the bite you suffered was mild, your adrenaline will still be running high. So, take some time to calm yourself down and be sure your dog has chilled out a bit before you re-approach her.

The first thing we want to do is to assess how she is communicating. I suggest doing so by carefully approaching your dog using a calm voice, averting your gaze, and turning your body away from her.

Try to avoid doing anything confrontational, such as staring her in the eye, standing over her or invading her space. Allow her to come to you if she isn’t tied or in a kennel.

Watch her body language. If she is feeling stressed, anxious, or frightened, her tolerance level may be low so proceed with caution.

Conversely, she may even seem overly excited. But excitement is easy to confuse with anxiety; hyper-arousal and hyper-excitability often go hand-in-hand with feeling nervous.

She may want space, but she may also want to seek you out for comfort. This is totally OK, provided that you feel safe.

She may be just as taken aback by the whole ordeal as you are and may need some comforting and reassurance.

Try to get her out of the confined space and allow her to decompress. Toss some treats for her out in the yard or give her something to chew on her favorite spot.

The next thing we need to do is to figure out the cause of her agression.

Why Do Dogs Bite? Seeking Answers in the Aftermath

Once the immediate chaos of the bite has passed, it’s time to start figuring out why your dog bit you and what you should do about it.

Try to Determine the Reason Your Dog Bit You

Begin your investigation by replaying the event in your head.

Because our memories often fail us, you may want to write down the incident in as much detail as possible.

Think about:

  • What was happening in the environment at the time of the bite?
  • What was your dog was doing at the time?
  • Did she give you any warnings such as growling, freezing, or air snapping?
  • Was she suddenly startled?
  • Was she fighting with another dog?
  • Did you touch her near her sore paw?

Also, think about your behavior. What were you doing right before the bite occurred? How did you react? And how did your dog respond to your reaction?

Determining why your dog bit you will help you decide if you need to seek professional help.

When Do You Need to Seek Professional Assistance?

A professional can help you not only figure out what caused your dog to bite you but it can also help you to manage and modify the underlying behavior that caused your dog to bite.

Professional help may not always be necessary, but there are some cases in which it should be considered mandatory.

In general, you’ll want to see seek professional help if:

  • She breaks the skin. A severe bite is a cause for concern. Most dogs who are just giving a warning nip will not break the skin when they connect. If your dog bites you and draws blood, it’s a big issue.
  • She bites more than one time. This might be more than once in a row or it might be multiple times within the week or month.
  • You don’t know what caused her to bite. Once you have ruled out any underlying medical issues that may have caused her to bite, a behavior consultant can help you uncover the root cause.
  • You know why she bit you, and you want help with the underlying behavior. This might be fear-based, reactivity towards strangers or dogs, resource guarding, or a plethora of other reasons.
  • You are afraid of her. A behavior consultant can help you to understand why your dog bit you, and what you can do to help her. They can give you a plan that will help to keep you and your dog safe.
  • There are small children in the house. Children are much more vulnerable to bites than adults. Part of this is the way kids tend to interact with dogs. Also, they’re less likely than adults to be able to read more subtle warning signs.
  • You are concerned it will happen again. If you’re worried that this wasn’t a one-off situation, a behavior consultant can help you work on creating a treatment plan to prevent future incidents.

This list is not all-encompassing, and all owners must make the best decisions they can on behalf of their pets. But there is never harm in seeking professional help for your dog’s behavior.

My Dog Bit Me – Should I Put Him Down?

Euthanasia is a last resort and should only be considered for severe behavior problems. And even then, the topic remains quite controversial.

It is also a completely personal decision and one not to be taken lightly. I have never recommended this course of action to a client, though I have supported a few families through this difficult decision.

I believe that there are certain cases where it is the humane decision. If a dog is so dangerous that she has to live in complete isolation, thereby ruining her quality of life, there may be no better option.

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How do we know if euthanasia should be considered? When dogs exhibit a behavior that makes it dangerous to work with them safely, consider the following:

  • Severity. If the behavior is overt, lunging, snapping and biting, and if bites are severe in nature (breaking skin, holding, shaking). Severity might also include multiple and often unpredictable triggers and a history of multiple bites.
  • No clear warnings. Most dogs will warn of an impending bite – growling, snapping, or even more subtle signs like averting her gaze or freezing. However, a dog who may have been punished for these warning signals in the past may skip those steps altogether and go directly for the bite. This is particularly dangerous.
  • Predictability. If you have done your homework – journal taking and note taking – and you still can’t pinpoint her triggers, this can make it extremely challenging to manage her environment.
  • Size of the dog. We know that larger dogs with larger jaws and teeth can do much more damage than a Chihuahua or Maltese. This can make certain dogs more dangerous to work with.
  • Compliance. How likely will you be able to follow through with a behavior plan? This is a reality of human lifestyles. This might include things such as your financial resources and time allocation.

There is a misconception that love fixes everything. All you need is love. I have seen people who love their dogs dearly, who have done everything right, have worked hard to help their dog overcome her demons, but sometimes it just doesn’t work.

You have not failed, you have tried your best.

Should I Use a Muzzle on a Dog That Bit Me?

I am a strong believer than every dog should be conditioned to wear a muzzle.

This just means getting them used to wearing a muzzle before it might ever be needed. This is especially true for any dog who has bitten or is fearful in certain situations and may be inclined to bite during highly stressful situations.

Check out some of the best muzzles on the market and then learn some muzzle training tips at the Muzzle Up! Project.

A muzzle could make your training safer for everyone. Muzzles can be a useful tool to assure your safety and the safety of others if your dog has bitten in the past.

Once a Dog Bites, Will He Bite Again?

Whether a dog who has already bitten you is more likely to bite in the future is dependent on the situation that caused the first bite. If the underlying behavior issues are not addressed accordingly, there is always the potential for additional bites to occur.

As with any dog, no matter how tolerant our furbaby may be, there is always the potential to bite, or bite again.

Dog bites can be emotional, for both you and your dog. Do you have a dog that has bitten you in the past? Did you figure out her triggers? We would love to hear from you. Sharing stories are a great way to learn from one another!

www.k9ofmine.com

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