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6-Year-Old Black Cat Attacked by Animal

July 4, 2012

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Shadow the black cat with green eyes does not appreciate photography (he tries to look away from Doc Truli's camera.)

Shadow looks okay from the front.

Doc Truli answered the phone.

“Doc, Shadow might have been in a fight last night,” said Brad, Shadow’s thirty-something human. Brad always checks to make sure Shadow has everything he needs. Vaccines, heartworm preventative, quality cat food, hypoallergenic toys. Now Brad called to check if Shadow should come in to see Doc Truli, or if he could ride it out at home.

“Why do you think that?” Doc likes to check on the objective evidence.

“I heard yowling and cat screeching, then Shadow came shooting in through the cat door. He’s been under the bed ever since. I know I shouldn’t let him out, but he likes it so much,” said Shadow’s human. Yeah, he’s loving it now…

“You should bring him in for a physical,” said Doc Truli.

Doc Truli’s advice regarding cat bite injuries, suspected or confirmed:

“Your cat needs a physical.  He or she needs wound care, antibiotics as quickly as possible, painkillers, and a rabies vaccine unless you live on an island where rabies has not infiltrated,” says Doc Truli

“Do you think it’d be okay to wait a few days and see how he does?  You know how much he hates the car ride,” said Shadow’s dad. I’m a doctor.  I’m never going to say it’s okay to hide under the bed instead of getting your problem checked. I ethically cannot condone ‘wait and see’ as a medical approach.

“Brad, I recommend you bring him in right away,” said Doc.

“I’ll think about it,” said Brad.

One week later, Shadow sat on Doc’s exam room table with a giant hole in the side of his face.

Two inch area of raw, red, bloody muscle exposed on left lower angle of a cat's jaw because of a cat bite abscess that burst after 4 days

Hole from burst cat bite abscess

Typical Cat Bite is Difficult to See the Damage

Shadow stayed under the bed for a few days, coming out only at night to eat, drink, and use the litter box. Meanwhile, a giant lump formed on his face.

“I swear I would have brought him in sooner, but I just saw the lump this morning,” said Brad.

Doc Truli reached for the surgical scrub and a good electric clipper blade.  “Let’s see what’s under the matted, sticky fur.”

The hole you see in the picture is what remained after Doc removed the pus, dead skin, and stuck-on fur.  Shadow may just be the calmest cat on earth.  He allowed the whole cleaning process to occur without anesthesia.  While the skin over the sore was already necrotic and dead, with no agitated nerve endings, still, having your face shaved with a buzzy electric shaver is nerve-wracking for the average cat.  Shadow sat still like a champ!

Shadow’s dad, Brad, swooned and turned pale at the sight of the wound.  He readjusted his glasses, Clark Kent style with his index finger on the bridge-piece, because his sudden profuse sweating caused the glasses to slide off his nose.

“I had no idea!  I’m not a cat abuser.  I would have brought him in right away if I had known this would happen,” said Brad. Live and learn…

After a Cat Bite

So here is Doc Truli’s advice regarding cat bite injuries, suspected or confirmed: your cat needs a physical.  He or she needs wound care, antibiotics as quickly as possible, painkillers, and a rabies vaccine unless you live on an island like the UK, NZ,  Australia, Hawaii, Japan, or a few other privileged places where rabies has not infiltrated.

Shadow’s Healing

Shadow healed 100% without surgery.  No kidding!  That giant wound on his face healed by natural means.  The antibiotics and painkillers helped break his fever so he could eat and sleep and rest after his trauma.  Two months after the incident, we tested him for feline leukemia and feline aids viruses.  It can take 30-60 days for a cat’s immune system to mount a response that is measurable on current tests. Shadow was lucky, he did not contract a deadly virus. (There is no follow-up picture because Shadow was feeling antsy that day and kept jumping around the exam room.)

Check VirtuaVet next week to read about strange symptoms of a hidden cat bite wound.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 4, 2012 1:49 pm

    Two questions about the rabies shot post-cat fight/animal attack based on my understanding that rabies vaccines are intended to prevent infection before exposure.

    1. If a dog or cat is current on their rabies vaccine before the incident (attack/fight), you would not recommend a vaccine, would you?

    2. If a dog or cat is not current on their rabies vaccines, and they are bitten by an animal that has rabies, will the vaccine prevent infection even though exposure has already occurred?

    • July 7, 2012 1:09 pm

      Sharon, thanks for these questions. I was purposely vague in the story because the state laws and country laws dictate whether or not an animal receives a vaccine after exposure to a potentially rabid animal. For example, when I practiced in Massachusetts, we were required to give a rabies vaccines after every incident involving a bite wound “of unknown origin.” Some cats got rabies vaccines every month or else I’m violating the law! (Talk about unhealthy.)

      Then I moved to Florida and vaccinated a cat that had been attacked by a skunk in broad daylight (a definate risk factor that the skunk was not in his right mind), and I gave the vaccine and ended up in some intense conversations with the local animal control officer.

      To answer your questions medically (not legally):
      1) If they were current, they should be protected. (There are individuals that never respond to a vaccine, but they are rare.)
      2) The vaccine may lessen the chances of infection is you give it right after the bite. In humans, we receive “post-exposure” injections to prevent infection. Rabies laws I am familiar with say 10-day quarantine for animal exposed (bitten) who is up to date on rabies vaccine and 6-month quarantine for animals not up-to-date. Science actually does not tell us how long after exposure until contagious- it can range from a few months to over 6 months. But most places say 6 months legally. (That is some of the logic behind 6-month rabies quarantines for pet immigration into countries that do not have nay rabies.)

      As ever, you are my most detailed reader- you catch me every time I try to gloss over something!

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