Vet tech's confession: "I was bitten"
A cat bite took me by surpriseand taught me some important lessons.
Working with animals can be a rewarding career, but it can also be a dangerous environment. I have worked with animals since graduating from college in 2003. My career began at the Cincinnati Zoo where I was a zookeeper with ungulates (which included rhinos, zebras and elephants). I've worked in a general practice and currently work at an internal medicine specialist. And I'll never forget the first time I was bitten by an animal.
My first bite
It was the fall of 2006 and I was working a Sunday day shift. It was a normal, busy day. Appointments came and went, and everyone went about their usual business. We had many pets dropped off for the day and one in particular seemed very sick. He was a 12-year-old domestic shorthair cat named Bubba. Bubba was an indoor/outdoor cat and hadn't been feeling well. He wasn't eating, was very lethargic and seemed very painful. The owners weren't sure what was wrong with him, but they did report he appeared to be trying to urinate over and over again. Our doctor palpated his bladder, and sure enough Bubba had a complete urinary obstruction. We got the owners on the phone and informed them of his current problem. Sadly, because of finances the owners opted for humane euthanasia. After getting the word about Bubba's fate, I sat with him. And no sooner than I said, "Bubba is such a nice cat for how bad he must feel" he turned around and I felt a sharp pain in my right thumb. Bubba had taken a bite out of me. His canine teeth carved a nice path around my right thumb, tracing the shape of my fingernail. It all happened so quickly I didn't even realize what had happened. Then I looked down at my finger and noticed blood dripping onto the floor. I stood there in shock. The doctor said that I should head to the nearest urgent care for medical intervention.
After the initial endorphins wore off I realized how bad my finger felt. I could feel my heartbeat pulsating in my finger. While at the hospital, I ran into a client from our veterinary practice. She said, "Looks like someone took a bite out of you!" I smiled politely, trying to hide the pain that I was feeling. It was amazing how much a small bite could hurt. After what felt like forever I was seen by the doctor who bandaged my finger up and placed me on antibiotics. Because of the high infection rate of cat bites, he didn't want to suture my finger up, but rather wanted it to drain and heal over time. To this day I still don't blame Bubba for what he did. He must have felt miserable. Bubba taught me to be more cautious around pets. Remember these safety tips to reduce your risk of a bite:
1 Never assume a pet won't bite. They are scared and sick and out of their normal environment or a combination of all three. And just because they bite doesn't mean they are bad pets.
2 Use proper restraint to help reduce bites.
3 Don't try to do things on your own.
4 If a pet is too fractious to handle, tell your doctor. Your veterinarian may opt to sedate a pet to protect you and the pet.
5 Report bites immediately. Waiting for medical intervention can lead to infection.
Adam Oliver is a technician at Veterinary Specialty Care in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. Email us at email@example.com.