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Cat Fights and Wounds

Authored by
Becky Marks, DVM

If you are reading this article then likely you own
a cat. It is equally likely that you have had experience with your cat
getting into a fight. Cats often end up with wounds that become
infected. This article discusses cat fight wounds and treatment.

Cats have several mechanisms with which to fight.
They would prefer not to engage in contact with their opponent for
several reasons. Contact involves energy, risk and consequences. If you
watch a cat fight the cats generally become vocal first. This requires
the least energy. Next is the body language which includes hair raising
( to increase body size and increase threat), stiffening of the body
(poised for action)and avoidance of eye contact.With a continued
threat  movement is next. Cats will still keep distance from the
opponent but may now involve circling and full  eye contact. This
completes the threat. The challenge is on!

Nails are the first contact tool because they are at
the end of the extremity and allows the cat to keep there opponent at a
distance. About 50% of the fight wounds are from toenails. They carry
bacteria related to the earth and common to the feces. Bite wounds
carry there own set of bacteria that normally inhabit the mouth and
obviously don’t cause problems there.Common bacteria are Staphlococcus,
Eschericia Coli, B-Hemolytic Streptococcus, Pasturella and Pseudomonas.
Additional infective agents can include abnormal inhabitants such as
viruses (Herpes, Feline Leukemia, Feline Immuno Deficiency Virus ,
Mycoplasma, Chlamydia, Calicivirus and fungii.As the point of the nail
or tooth penetrates the skin the infective organism is now introduced
percutaneously (under the skin) and infection begins.

Generally from the time of the penetration to
obvious clinical illness is 48-72 hours. The cat may become withdrawn
and typically hides for safety but also to be left to “lick his
wounds”. A fever has set in. If the infection penetrated into the blood
stream sepsis (infection in the blood) will transpire. This can be life
threatening. The cat may refuse food and water. For this reason he may
not urinate or defecate.In addition most cats do not want to be handled
because of moderate pain at the wound site. Now the owner becomes aware
his/her cat is sick.

The examination of the cat by your
veterinarian (hopefully you have scheduled an exam by this point)
reveals a lethargic cat, fever ranging from 103-106F, often cranky if
the wound site(s) is touched . The wound may appear as a large swelling
with redness and heat. This is an abcess.The wound may have advanced
into a mature tissue degradation where the center of the wound is soft
and is becoming necrotic  or “dead” and soon will rupture. When
this happens a distinct odor is noted. The contents of the abcess is
usually blood tinged, thick and white. It might be comparable to
strawberry yogurt.  It is a combination of white blood cells,
bacteria , toxins and blood.

Treatment for the patient can be simple in the
earliest of stages. If the owner observed the cat fight then  an
immediate exam, cleaning the puncture sights and dispensing of
antibiotics is appropriate. However, the advanced stages  more
aggressive therapy is required.. The cat is treated in hospital. He
may  have bloodwork, IV Fluid therapy, antibiotics, pain
medications and anesthesia to flush, debride and  manage the
wound. A rubber/latex tubing is sutured into place to allow continued
drainage.  Often the care involves a  minimum 24 hour
hospital stay. The patient is released with antibiotics, pain
medications and Elizabethan collar to prevent the patient from removing
the drain.  The drain is removed by the hospital on the recheck
exam in 3 to 5 days.  Some clinics are using a single antibiotic
injection that lasts 2 weeks. This is really a poor choice as this
particular antibiotic (Convenia) is effective against only Pasturella
in
cats. This is a very narrow spectrum. Pain medications such as Metacam,
Torbugesic and Carprofen can be carefully administered. Never give
tylenol to  your cat.

As the wounds progressively get infected your cat starta
to
give you clues. Abcesses are a common result of cat fights. Treatment
should be started immediately to avoid extreme illness in the
cat.