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One-third of cat bite victims end up in the hospital

Cats might be cuddly, but their love nibbles can be a serious health matter.

A study published in the February issue of The Journal of Hand Surgery showed that 30 percent of patients who had a cat bite on hand ended up staying in a hospital for more than three days on average.

Who would've thought those tiny teeth could be so dangerous?

"The dogs' teeth are blunter, so they don't tend to penetrate as deeply and they tend to leave a larger wound after they bite," senior study author Dr. Brian Carlsen, a Mayo Clinic plastic surgeon and orthopedic hand surgeon, said in a press release. "The cats' teeth are sharp and they can penetrate very deeply, they can seed bacteria in the joint and tendon sheaths."

The researchers identified 193 patients who had went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. over the course of three years due to cat bites. Fifty-seven of them had to be admitted to the facilities, with an average stay of 3.2 days.

Oral antibiotics were given to 154 patients, but failed to work in 14 percent of cases. Those patients ended up being hospitalized.

Out of the patients who had to take a hospital bed because a cat gnawed on them, 67 percent needed cleaning and removal of dead, damaged or infected tissue. Eight of the patients needed more than one operation.

Other injuries including erythema, a redness or rash on the skin due to damage to deeper skin layers, and swelling were linked to a higher chance of needing a hospital stay.

Complications were also common in these cases, especially for those who were bit over a joint like the wrist or a tendon sheath. People who were smokers and had immune system problems were also more prone to having additional issues from a cat bite.

"It can be just a pinpoint bite mark that can cause a real problem, because the bacteria get into the tendon sheath or into the joint where they can grow with relative protection from the blood and immune system," Carlsen said.

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