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Skin Reconstruction in Cats

By: Dr. Cathy Reese

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Reconstructive surgery of the skin, also known as plastic surgery, is sometimes necessary to repair large wounds. Typical wounds are those created by trauma, such as being hit and dragged by a car, or those associated with burns, gunshots or animal bites. The wounds can also be created after the removal of a large tumor where there is insufficient skin to close the defect.

Any animal that has a large area of skin loss may be a candidate for reconstructive skin surgery. Wounds or defects that might require reconstructive surgery include:

  • Extremely large wounds
  • Chronic, non-healing wounds
  • Large tumors of the skin or underlying tissue

    Diagnosis

  • Your veterinarian will ask you many questions to determine the history of the wound and its progression. These questions might include the following:

    If there is a wound:

  • How did the wound occur?
  • How long has it been present?
  • What therapies have been tried and with what results?

    If there is a tumor:

  • How long has the tumor been there?
  • How quickly has it grown?
  • Has it been tested by a biopsy or fine needle aspirate? This is a test in which the doctor inserts a fine needle into the tumor and uses a syringe to aspirate some of the tumor cells. The cells are then placed onto a slide for microscopic examination.

  • Skin reconstruction is major surgery that must be done under general anesthesia. Therefore, your veterinarian will want to determine your pet's overall health to ascertain the risk associated with anesthetizing your pet and also to determine the best anesthetic regime to use. Your veterinarian will also perform a complete examination of your pet, including checking the body temperature and listening to the heart and lungs.

  • Blood will be drawn from your pet and submitted for analysis. Your veterinarian will want to determine if your pet is anemic or has an abnormal white cell count, which could indicate the presence of an infection. Blood tests can also identify abnormalities in kidney or liver function, which is important to know since these organs metabolize or help eliminate most anesthetic drugs.

  • Your veterinarian will examine the wound closely to determine the optimal time to perform surgery. Some wounds are sufficiently healthy so that surgery can be done immediately, while others are best treated for a period of time, perhaps by bandaging, before surgery is done. He/she will also examine the skin adjacent to the wound or tumor to determine what reconstructive procedure would be best suited for your pet's wound.

    Treatment

    The timing and type of reconstructive skin surgery varies depending on the type of wound and its appearance and location.

    Some wounds need to be cleaned of dirt, hair and other contaminants before they can be closed. Other wounds may heal on their own over a long period of time and not require surgery. Complex wounds may require more than one surgery to completely close them.

    Home Care and Prevention

    Follow your veterinarian's instructions on wound and bandage care closely in order to obtain the best results. Be patient. Many wounds take months and may require numerous visits to your veterinarian before they heal completely.

    It may be difficult to prevent your pet from becoming injured; however, many large wounds are caused by automobile accidents. To prevent these injuries keep your cat indoors.

    Examine your pet regularly to identify tumors when they are small. Small tumors are more easily removed and the resulting wound is more readily closed than when large tumors are present.

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