Treating Skin Wounds

In treating skin wounds the first important thing is to control bleeding (see companion article Controlling Bleeding this issue), Next is reducing infection by cleaning and treating with antibiotics and lastly healing. There are four kinds of skin wounds, Abrasions, lacerations, puncture (abscesses) and burns.

ALL wounds will have bacteria and debris associated with it. It is important to cleanse the wound thoroughly, however, in the case of a fresh serious bleeding wound that has clotted and stopped bleeding it is best to seek veterinarian care for the cleansing.

While some of the cleansing and treatment techniques are the same there are some subtle differences in the instructions, so please be aware when referencing this article.

Treating Shock

Also depending upon the severity and % of body injured, shock is an issue and may take your cats life before you can give first aid. Shock is a dangerous condition. You can expect some degrees of shock in any emergency so do not give anything by mouth.

Shock symptoms include, unusual weakness, faintness, cold, pale, clammy skin (gums and inner eye), rapid, weak pulse, shallow, irregular breathing, chills, nausea and unconsciousness.

1. Treat the known cause of shock immediately (such as breathing difficulties and bleeding)
2. Maintain open airway, if cat vomits, be sure it does not aspirate it.
3. Keep cat warm and quiet and lying flat
4. Get medical help asap!

Abrasions

Cleaning Fresh Wounds

1. Clip hair from around the wound. Start from the edge and work your way out. You should have a clear and unobstructed view of the wound and surrounding area. Better to trim more hair off than too little.

2. Cleanse the outside of the fresh wound with clean water or Betadine solution (1:10 with water) and gauze.

3. Wash the wound with 2% chlorhexidine solution (2oz. Per gal water or 90%) or Betadine solution using a syringe (minus the needle).

4. Apply topical antibiotic ointment.

5. Bandage to keep clean (see companion article Bandaging this issue). If wound is mild and watched bandaging might not be required.

Cleaning Older Wounds

1. For older wounds covered in scabs, crust or puss, wash the wound ONE time only with peroxide solution 1:5 with water (peroxide can damage tissue).

2. Irrigate the wound with 2% chlorhexidine solution (2ozs per gallon water or 90%) or Betadine Solution (1:10 with water) using a syringe minus the needle.

3. Apply topical antibiotic ointment.

4. Bandage.

5. Wounds older than 12 hours are more than likely infected.

6. Infected wounds should be re-bandaged frequently to keep infection down and speed up healing. Reapply antibiotic ointment with every bandage change.

7. Oral antibiotics are often prescribed for infected wounds.


Lacerations

Cleaning Fresh Wounds

1. Clip hair from around the wound. Start from the edge and work your way out. You should have a clear and unobstructed view of the wound and surrounding area. Better to trim more hair off than too little.

2. Cleanse the outside of the fresh wound with clean water or Betadine (1:10 with water) with clean cloth or gauze.

3. Irrigate the wound with chlorhexidine solution (2ozs. Per gal water or 90%) or Betadine (1:10 with water) using a syringe (minus the needle).

4. Apply topical antibiotic ointment.

5. Bandage.

6. Wounds over ½ inch long should be sutured to reduce infection, scarring and increase healing.

7. Minor lacerations typically do not require bandaging once sutured, however more severe lacerations will require bandaging.

Cleaning Old Wounds

1. For older wounds covered in scabs, crust or puss, wash the wound ONE time only with peroxide solution 1:5 with water (peroxide can damage tissue).

2. Irrigate the wound with 2% chlorhexidine solution (2oz. Per gal of water or 90%) or Betadine Solution (1:10 with water) using a syringe minus the needle.

3. Apply topical antibiotic ointment.

4. Bandage.

5. Wounds older than 12 hours are more than likely infected.

6. Infected wounds should be re-bandaged frequently to keep infection down and speed up healing. Reapply antibiotic ointment with every bandage change.

7. Wounds that are over 12 hours old and infected are typically not sutured or bandaged but allowed to stay open and heal from the inside out, irrigation might be required several times a day or a drain tube sutured in to allow the puss to drain out. Oral antibiotics are often prescribed for infected wounds.

Punctures

Puncture wounds in cats are often a result of fighting and from a bite. Nearly always these puncture wounds become infected and abscess. The most likely culprit is the bacteria Pasturella.

If you notice your cat has been in a fight, it is best to check the neck, around the ears, feet and legs for punctures (these are the most common areas to find them), unfortunately if no blood is present they are often very difficult to find.

Chances are you will find the punctures after they have begun to abscess. Antibiotics, hot packing and drain tubes may be required. There is very little you can do to prevent infection in a bite puncture. Irrigation of the wound is more than likely going to drive the bacteria to the bottom of the wound, topical antibiotics (most petroleum based) set the stage for sealing off the wound and providing an ideal situation for the anaerobic (not loving oxygen) bacteria to grow faster.

1. Clip the fur away from fresh or abscessed punctures, so that you can keep an eye on them.

2. Seek veterinarian care for oral antibiotics and care of the punctures.

3. Punctures (fresh) should NEVER be bandaged or sutured.

4. With abscesses, hot and wet compresses or lancing will be required to drain the puss.

5. To Hot/Wet compress, take a clean cloth and soak it in hot water and lightly ring out. (it should drip water) If you can barely hold it your hand it’s about right. (by the time you get it to the cat it will be just right). Care should be taken not to BURN the cat with too hot of compress. Apply the hot/wet compresses several times a day (the more often you can do it the better), the compresses should be applied and refreshed for 15 –20 mins at a time or as long as the cat will tolerate it. I have found that when its about to drain the cat will squirm as it gets a bit more painful when its about to rupture. Rarely does this happen on the first few compresses. (unless it was near to rupturing on its own)

6. Once the abscess ruptures or drains, now you can irrigate it with Chlorhexidine or Betadine solutions. Antibiotics are still suggested.

7. If the abscess fails to drain or rupture within 12 hours of hot packing or the cat is feverish, not eating and lethargic seek veterinarian attention asap!

Burns

Burns can occur in several ways, Radiation (such as sunburn), scalding (hot liquids or steam), heat (hot stoves, fire and electricity-which will be discussed in a future article) and chemical.

Sunburns

Sunburn typically occurs in very light colored or white cats. Typically the areas burned are the ear tips, and the near hairless area in front of the ears above the eyebrow. It is often presented by reddening, hair loss, blistering, scratching and in worst cases ulceration. If constant exposure to sun is allowed skin cancer can follow.

To avoid sunburns do not allow the cats to have access to full sun enough to be burned. Limit exposure time. There are shades that allow warmth to pass through but not ultraviolet light.

Treatment would consist of a safe benzicane solution to apply to the affected area and if chronic sunburns or ulceration’s occur, surgery to remove the affected area (usually the ear tips) and a safe sunscreen for future use.

Scalding and Heat burns

Scalding and Heat burns are the same except that scalding comes from hot liquids and steam and often times causes more serious damage to the skin other than the case of the cat being on fire. Other heat burns can come from, hot metal roofs, wood-stoves, ovens, hot stove tops, heaters, tarred streets and roofs, light-bulbs, candles, fireplaces or other open flame source, to name a few.

It is hard to determine the extent of the burns in most cases due to the fur covering the area. The exceptions are the paw-pads, ear-tips, where the hair is sparse or if the hair has been burned away. First and foremost apply COLD compresses to the area presumed burned, if you are unsure put the cat in a cold bath soak. This should be done for at least 30 minutes. When using cold compresses be sure to re-cool the compress as it becomes warm. DO NOT USE ICE. Next if you suspect where the burn is, GENTLY clip the fur to where you can see the skin, I recommend NOT using clippers but rather scissors. Once you can determine the extent of the burns proceed to the below.

First Degree Burns

Presented by redness or discoloration of skin surface, mild swelling and pain.

1. Apply cool, wet compresses or immerse the area in cool water. 30 mins. Do not use ice.
2. Blot gently and apply a dry, sterile, non-stick bandage if necessary.
3. Usually Medical treatment is not necessary, however if severe or extensive symptoms are present consult your veterinarian asap. Be aware of shock.

Second Degree Burns

Presented by deep burn with red or mottled appearance, blisters, considerable pain and swelling, skin surface appears wet. Burns may be deep and potentially serious. Requiring medical treatment depending upon extent and location. Be alert for signs of shock and infection

1. See treatment for First degree burns above
2. If legs are affected keep at heart level (cat on side).


Third Degree Burns

Presented by deep tissue destruction with a white or charred appearance and no pain. Hair will readily pull out. If over 15% of the body is burned prognosis is poor. Fluid losses are excessive.

1. Treat for shock
2. DO NOT touch, sneeze or cough over burned areas. Sterility is a MUST.
3. Face burned cats should be propped up and observed for breathing difficulties being sure the airway is open.
4. If legs are affected, try to keep them above heart level (cat on back with legs in air).
5. Apply cold packs ONLY to face or paws.
6. Cover burns with sterile nonstick pads.
7. Get to a Vet asap!

Burn Don’ts

1. Do Not clean burn or break blisters
2. Do Not remove any hair or material that sticks to the burn
3. Do Not apply grease, ointment or medications a severe burn
4. Do Not use cotton or material with loose fibers to cover burns.
5. Do Not use Ice as a compress.

Chemical Burns

Chemical burns as the name implies, come from caustic substances. Solvents, Household chemicals, lawn and garden, automotive and more.

1. The area should be flushed thoroughly with water for at least 15 mins.
2. Do not allow the pet to lick affected areas. (but it may already have).
3. Seek medical attention asap and bring with you the suspect chemical in case poison control needs to be contacted.

Sources sited:

Cat Owners Home Veterinarian Handbook by Delbert G. Carlson D.V.M. and James M. Giffin, M.D.

Johnson and Johnson First Aide Facts Wall Chart

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