Your Guide to Cat Emergencies
Dr. Debra Primovic
Maggots. Maggots are fly larva that often infest infected wounds. If caught early, the skin can be shaved and the maggots removed. Frequently, pet owners are unaware of the maggots due to the hair coat covering the affected area. Most maggot infestations should be examined and treated by a veterinarian. Keeping your pet groomed and healthy usually prevents maggot infestations since maggots prefer unhealthy skin.Licking, chewing or scratching at the sutures is the most common problem associated with sutures and incisions. A common recommendation is either to cover the wound with a bandage or to use an Elizabethan collar, which is a flexible plastic lampshade type devise that attaches to your pet's collar. The device allows your pet to eat and drink but does not allow him access to parts of his body below the collar. E-collars are available at most pet stores and veterinary hospitals. You might try covering abdominal and chest/body wall incisions with a t-shirt. This covers the wound and allows your pet to be comfortable.
Mammary Gland Swelling. Depending on the cause of the mammary gland (breast) swelling, treatment may not be necessary and the swelling may resolve on its own. In nursing mothers, kittens may need to be weaned. Limit stress and activity. Warm water or cold water compresses applied to swellings can be helpful in some situations. You may need to consult with your veterinarian to determine the underlying cause. Treatment with antibiotics, pain medication or surgical excision of one or more glands may be recommended.
Open Wound. Any open wound has the potential to become an emergency situation. Prompt care can prevent a catastrophe. Use a clean towel and gentle pressure to control bleeding. If the area appears to be small and close to the skin surface, clip hair and clean with warm water. For larger wounds, wrap the area with a towel and tape and seek veterinary care. Despite initial home care, all wounds should be examined and treated by your veterinarian. Extensive damage can occur even if it appears as though there is only a small, minor puncture wound on the skin.
Oral Foreign Body. Pets with something stuck in their throat or mouth typically show significant signs of distress. They may paw at their mouth, rub their face on the floor and may even have difficulty breathing. If you suspect that your cat may have ingested something that may not pass from his mouth into the esophagus, contact your veterinarian. For pets with an object stuck in the throat blocking the airway, removal of that item immediately is crucial for your pet's survival. Some pets may begin choking. In this situation, the Heimlich maneuver may be necessary: place your arms around the animal's waist; close your hands together to make a fist and place the fist just behind the last rib; compress the abdomen by pushing up with this fist five times in rapid succession.
Pad Injuries. For minor pad injuries, soaking and cleaning with povidone iodine or chlorhexidine should be sufficient. Do not allow your pet to lick at the wound as this could result in infection. For more extensive wounds, you should call your veterinarian.
Poisons. If you suspect your pet may have ingested a poisonous substance, read the bottle for ingredients and first aid directions for accidental ingestion. Many packages and bottles contain a toll free number. Also, consult your veterinarian or veterinary emergency facility if you suspect your pet has been poisoned. Your veterinarian may recommend that you induce vomiting before bringing your pet in for examination and treatment. However, vomiting should never be induced unless specifically directed by a veterinarian. Some toxic substances are harmful because of the corrosive nature of the substance and risk of aspiration.
If vomiting is recommended, three percent hydrogen peroxide is effective in making cats vomit. Despite the label indicating that hydrogen peroxide is toxic, it is safe to give to cats. It is considered toxic since it induces vomiting. The appropriate dose of hydrogen peroxide is one teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight. If you have an oral syringe, one teaspoon equals 5 cc or 5 ml. Once given, gently shake the stomach area to mix the peroxide with the stomach contents. Vomiting should occur within 15 to 20 minutes. If no vomiting occurs, you can safely repeat the three percent hydrogen peroxide once. If it is still not effective, your cat may need to be seen by a veterinarian for stronger vomiting medication.
For topical exposures, bathing in lukewarm water with a mild dish soap can reduce further toxin absorption before your pet is examined and treated by a veterinarian.
Porcupine Quills. Even though your cat might enjoy it, playing with a porcupine is not a good idea. The quills can easily become embedded in your pet's face or paw or elsewhere. The end of the quill has several small barbs, making removal difficult. If a quill is stuck in the skin, examine the area. Using a pair of tweezers with steady gentle pressure, attempt to pull the quill out of the skin. Clean the area with a mild soap and water. Check area for redness, swelling or discharge. If your pet is unfortunate enough to have multiple quills embedded and you are unable to remove them, consult your veterinarian. Sometimes, sedation may be required.
Post Surgery Problems. Most surgeries are uncomplicated and pets heal quickly. In some instances, complications can occur. Usually, these complications are associated with the site of incision and not the actual surgery itself.
Incisional Swelling. Some mild swelling is expected, because, as the body begins to heal the incision, fluid and cells accumulate. In cases of excessive swelling, see your veterinarian to determine the cause.
Incision Discharge. For the first few days following surgery, there may be a small amount of clear or slightly blood tinged fluid. This may show up if a dry paper towel or tissue is applied to the incision. However, you should not see fluid dripping from the incision. After the first few days, there should be no discharge at all and any discharge should be reported to your veterinarian. If you notice any bleeding, try to place a temporary bandage on the incision. Some incisions are in areas not easily bandaged; in that case, apply pressure to the incision and contact your veterinarian immediately. Any drainage that is cloudy or foul smelling may indicate an infection and should be seen by your veterinarian .
Missing Sutures. Missing skin sutures are not a problem as long as there is no redness, swelling or discharge, and the skin is still connected. If the edges of the skin are no longer together, the suture may need to be replaced to prevent infection or additional sutures from coming out.
Tissue Protruding from Incision. If any tissue is found protruding from the incision, cover the incision immediately with a clean towel and contact your veterinarian or veterinary emergency facility. Emergency treatment is crucial.
Prolapses. A prolapse is the displacement of an organ through the skin. Usually, the term prolapse is associated with the uterus, vagina or rectum. If you notice tissue protruding from an opening in the body, moisten it with sterile water using a clean towel moistened with water, and transport your pet to your veterinarian. Do not allow your pet to lick or chew at that area. Do not try to push it back inside the pet.
Puncture. If you notice that your pet is bleeding, depending on the location of the injury, gentle pressure is often necessary to stop the flow of blood. Elevate the area to decrease blood flow to that area and wrap the area with a clean towel and tape and seek veterinary care immediately.