Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Wounds on a Cats Face. Why Vet Care is Cheap and Effective.

This is Socks, a three year old domestic short haired, neutered barn cat.

I live in Maryland horse country and where I practice medicine it is not uncommon to have your horse barn guarded by rodent loving felines. Socks came to see me to help address a wound. Cats are fairly territorial beasts who cat fight when they are stressed, housed too tightly, protecting food, or generally feeling unsocial. In a county with a lot of horse barns, there are a lot of cats, and, I therefore see a lot of cat wounds. 

There are a few general consistencies with cats and wounds.

1. Cats prefer to fight with WORDS (hissing, spitting, growling, and some high pitched yells that are easily recongized and universally regarded as equivalent to nasty accusations about close family members and inappropraite accusations sure to raise the hair on even the most genteel being) and CLAWS and TEETH.

2. Claws and teeth are designed exquisitely to pierce flesh. The perfect shape and always sharpened to a dangerous point.

3. Those pointy sharp weapons can penetrate deep in an instant. One hit of the target is sure to puncture the skin and almost invariably will leave behind bacteria who are deposited in a warm well supplied host. It is the perfect scenario for infection to flourish.

4. To add insult to this injury, cats have a unique and somewhat disadvantageous preclusion to healing from punctures rapidly.

Let's review the scenario.
Pierce skin, embed bacteria, close skin, envelope infection in the most perfect place for it to proliferate and infect. And, so, not surprisingly, in about a week or two your cat has a big, swollen, infected bump. We call it an abscess. It is painful and it grows until your cats body can either kill it with their own immune system (puss is in reality white blood cells eating up the bacteria), or it ruptures and frees the bacteria to the world.

This is what Sock's wound looked like at the first glance.
Doesn't look so bad does it?
That's because the hair is hiding it.

Here is what I do for cats that arrive at the clinic for a wound examination.
1. You need to get a good look at what you are dealing with. For some cats this requires sedation. At my clinic sedation involves  an intramuscular injection and costs $40.

2. Clip and clean the wound. Hair gets embedded in the oozing wound and delays healing. It also helps get a clearer picture of what the wound looks like, for instance, how deep is it? How large is it? How much tissue is compromised? (See Whiskey's Wound for more information).

3. Flush out the wound. We use the old vet saying often; "The solution to pollution is dilution!" Flush out as much dirt, infection, and clipped hair as possible. We use a medicated cleaner, but betadine (diluted), or soapy water is ok, in almost all cases. (Note; if a body cavity is involved, for instance, into the chest, he abdomen, or the throat/neck area seek veterinary help immediately!)

4. Decide whether to close the wound, or not. There are a few general guidelines for this;

  • Don't close in infection. This is a judgement call not to be made by anyone except a veterinarian.
  • Don't close in compromised, necrotic, or possible neoplastic (cancer) tissue. These require surgical veterinary excision.
  • Understand which wounds need the help of a drain. In general, I place drains if I am concerned about closing in infection, or being able to loose access to flushing out infection.
  • If the wound has already begun to heal on its own. This is evident by formation of granulation tissue and the skin around it is looking healthy.

Socks has a good bed of healthy granulation tissue to his wound. He doesn't need surgical exploration at this time.

He does however need;

1. An e-collar to protect the delicate newly healing tissue from being traumatized.

2. An antibiotic to thwart off any residual infection. We gave an injectable antibiotic that lasts about 10 days. This costs about $30.

3. To be kept inside. As the weather is warming flies will search out an open wound and lay eggs in it. This is how maggots develop. These insidious parasites can kill a pet. Never allow a pet with open wounds to be kept outside longer than a few minutes. Flies can find them in seconds.

4. A rabies booster shot. He is due and we don't know the cause of this wound. Play it safe, keep your pets up to date on this disease that kills everyone it meets, and boost the vaccine if your pet has an odd injury that could have been caused by another animal.

Any cat that is lethargic, quiet, not eating well, limping, licking or rubbing any part of their body, has a swelling that appears hot painful or wet, or has an area of wet matted fur should be examined for a wound or abscess.

I know that many people think that "lancing the wound" will help treat the infection. While in many cases relieving the pressure of the infection will relieve some of the pain, it will be dangerous to do (to both you and your cat), and may not resolve draining the infection, nor will it treat the infection in most cases.

Socks exam and treatment was about $100.

If you have a question about your pet you can find a pet community of people who share information and experiences for the simple benefit of helping other pets, all for free, at

You can find me at the clinic, Jarrettsville Vet, in Jarrettsville Maryland, or on Twitter @FreePetAdvice.

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