How Can I Tell If My Cat has a Bite Wound?
Minnie the Cat has Extensive, Hidden Trauma
“She was perfectly fine last night at 10 p.m. Today she just lays around and won’t even eat her favorite- rotisserie chicken,” said Roxy. The black, short-haired, slightly pudgy domestic kitty purred. Her golden eyes stared up at Doc Truli from the zippered opening of her burgundy polyester cat carrier. Minnie looked normal.
“Does she go outside?” asked Doc Truli.
“Yes, she loves to sleep on the hood of the car in the sunshine and sometimes she sleeps on the back porch in the afternoon. She stayed out all night two nights ago and didn’t come back until the next morning. She seemed fine,” said Roxy.
Doc Truli knew better than to just reach into the carrier of a supposedly friendly cat who may be in pain. With a gentle hand, she felt Minnie’s head and lymph nodes, then her shoulders, then her back and finally, her hips. Minnie growled.
“She hurts in the back-end. Let’s get her out of this carrier carefully and see why she hurts back there,” said Doc Truli.
“Now that you mention it, I have not seen her get up and walk in more than a day,” said Minnie’s mom. You’d think someone would lead with that observation…
Doc felt Minnie’s right hip, haunch and hind leg. The whole thigh felt crinkly with crepitus (pronounced crep-i-tuss). Doc knew immediately that anything causing that much air under the skin was extensive. Usually a bad infection or trauma will cause air under the skin.
“Minnie needs sedation and surgery to identify all her wounds and fix them,” said Doc Truli.
“I can’t believe it. She was perfect yesterday,” said Roxy. “Why does everybody say that?” thought Doc Truli.
How to Tell If Your Cat has a Wound
Clumping of the Fur
Minnie’s wounds did not look extensive. She had some small clumps of fur on the right side of her right hind leg, by her knee, by the inside of her knee, and by the right side of her anus. The fur was sticking up and not lying flat and smooth like the rest of her fur. Her right knee and ankle were swollen and enlarged when Doc felt the right and the left for comparison.
The whole right haunch felt crinkly and little blebs of air moved until Doc Truli’s fingers as she felt the leg. The air and the wide distribution of little holes were clues to bigger injuries than Roxy suspected.
Unexplained Wet Fur
The wet spot over the wound in this picture is a give-away for serum or blood or sometimes even pus under the skin. If it stays for hours or days, it will have time to dry and become a clump of fur. The clump may keep infection close to the skin and cause pus and infection to spread under the fur and infect a larger area of skin.
Sudden Illness “For No Reason”
“She was perfect. I can’t believe it’s this bad,” said Roxy. Doc Truli hears this almost every time a cat comes into the hospital with bite wounds. Several days after the initial attack, the uncleaned, bruised wounds begin to accumulate pus. Usually the infection stays under the skin until it exerts enough pressure to find its way through the skin. Sometimes you see nothing, but your cat feels tired and lethargic. Minnie stopped eating and had a high fever. This infection had several days to brew and become worse. If Roxy had known how to feel for injuries like bite wounds, perhaps the pain and illness could have been averted.
How to Feel For Wounds
- Look for fur sticking out.
- Look for missing fur.
- Look for fur not laying smooth with the rest of the fur.
- Feel for clumps or fur not laying right.
- If your cat quivers or pulls away from one spot and the fur is not normal, it may be an injury.
- Look especially by the tail base, the back, and the neck and cheeks (common cat bite areas.)
- Look and feel for symmetry. Healthy mammals are symmetrical.
- Feel for heat, pain, and/or swelling.
- Feel for gas (air) bubbles under the skin – like a crinkly crepitus feeling.
If you find any of these abnormalities in a cat acting abnormal, then maybe you need a veterinary visit.
Other Things Bumps on Your Cat Could Be
- Scar tissue – not a new bump, obviously
- hives – smooth, haired, round
- growths – bump in fur, but also bump in, on, or under skin
- dermatitis – this is a big one. Infected hair follicles will make the fur stick up in little clumps. As your veterinarian, Doc Truli would pull the fur out of a clump and see what’s underneath. Dermatitis will not have bruising or a hole like a bite wound.
- many other things, but should be worth a vet check-up
A Bite Wound Causes More Injury Than You Would Guess
A Thorough Examination
Doc Truli sedated Minie and shaved her hips and leg. Herein follows a picture series of what Doc Truli discovered. Minnie had six small holes through the skin on her hip, the inner and outer knee and by the right side of her kitty butt below the anus. Under the skin, there was trapped outside air over the entire hip, rump, and even around her right kneecap!
Once her right knee area was shaved, bruising of the entire knee and halfway up her kitty quadriceps could be seen.
Kitty Cat CSI
Minnie suffered a vicious attack. Her wounds went beyond defensive wounds; she was running away from her attacker(s). The tiny precise holes coupled with the locations inside and outside the knee inflicted while Minnie was running away made Doc Truli think of a fast, accurate attacker. Cats rarely cause that much damage so fast. Dogs rarely make holes that small. Who attacked Minnie?
Doc Truli shared her observations with Roxy,”Someone vicious, fast, efficient and with small teeth attacked Minnie.”
“Could it be a raccoon?” asked Roxy.
“Why do you think it might be a raccoon?” asked Doc Truli.
“We have a whole crowd of them that come to the back porch in broad daylight and when I try to shoo them away, they just look at me. They have no fear,” said Roxy.
Most likely, poor Minnie was minding her own business when she was attacked by one or more raccoons. The evidence fits.
Minnie’s Bite Wound Recovery
Minnie slept and took antibiotics and painkillers for two weeks. The first 24 hours, she had ice therapy. Once she started eating well and feeling better, we started some physical therapy to keep her right hind leg limber. She had extensive muscle bruising and torn muscles from the attack and would need two to three months to heal the injuries.
Learn the signs of a bite wound injury in your cat to help minimize pain and infection.
Consider carefully whether or not your cat will continue to go outside to lounge or play. In many places in the United States, cats are not legally allowed outside unless they are under the direct supervision of their humans, just like a dog.
Read more about bite wounds causing surprisingly extensive hidden injuries in this story about a little dog attacked by the neighbor’s Golden Retrievers.
Thank you for reading!
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