Laceration in Small Mammals
A laceration is a wound produced by the tearing of body tissue. The skin is often involved. Unlike an incision with smooth edges, a laceration is often jagged and irregular.
There can be variable degrees of damage to the underlying body tissue and structures, depending on the depth and force of the trauma that caused the laceration. Minor trauma may damage the skin only. Major trauma may damage deeper muscles and tendons or extend into the abdominal or chest cavities.
The wound created by the laceration is frequently contaminated with debris and bacteria. All lacerations have the potential for bleeding or infection.
What to Watch For
- Uncontrolled bleeding
- Difficulty breathing
- Inability to stand
- Abnormal mental state
Diagnostic tests are needed to determine the severity of the laceration and the impact on your pet. Tests may include:
- Complete medical history and physical examination. Concurrent injuries should be noted and your veterinarian will determine if your pet is in shock.
- Laboratory tests are seldom needed unless the trauma is severe. If severe hemorrhage has occurred, tests for anemia (low red blood cell count) may be performed.
- A chest X-ray if there is generalized trauma.
- An abdominal X-ray to determine the extent of injury.
- All lacerations have the potential for bleeding or infection, and therefore should be evaluated immediately by your veterinarian or local emergency hospital.
- Intravenous or subcutaneous fluids may be administered if your pet is showing signs of shock.
Emergency wound care involves the following principles:
- Controlling hemorrhage
- Removing obvious debris from the wound
- Covering the wound with a sterile bandage until definitive treatment can be done
Depending on the severity of the laceration, varying degrees of sedation or anesthesia may be needed. Many lacerations in small mammals are repaired with local anesthetic. After numbing the area, the following treatments are performed:
- The hair is clipped from the skin that surrounds wound and the wound and surrounding skin are cleaned with antibacterial scrub solution.
- Surgical debridement, which is cutting away/removal of dead or badly infected tissue, if the tissue is severely traumatized.
- Repair of damaged deep tissues such as those affecting muscles or tendons. When possible, the skin is sutured or sewed closed with stitches. Sometimes a drain is placed inside to prevent fluid build-up under the skin.
- The wound may need to be left open if excessive skin loss or wound contamination has occurred. The latter is to prevent suturing from "burying" infection or debris within the wound.
- Antibiotics may be administered and prescribed for home use.
Home Care and Prevention
If your pet has a laceration, home care may include the following:
- Consider applying direct pressure over the wound with a clean cloth to control the bleeding. Attempt this only if you are confident you can do it without being bitten by your frightened pet. Pressure will allow the smaller blood vessels to clot, and, therefore, stop bleeding. The larger vessels will not clot with pressure alone, but will at least stop bleeding until you can get your pet to your veterinarian.
- After the veterinarian has repaired the wound, keep your pet confined to a small area or cage to allow him to rest and heal. This also allows you to monitor the wound.
- The skin sutures are removed after the wound has completely healed, usually in 10 to 14 days.
- Do not allow your pet to lick at the wound. Contact your veterinarian for suggestion on how to prevent this in small critters.
- The best way to prevent lacerations is to prevent trauma. Keep your pet in a safe environment and do not allow or encourage fights between pets. Monitor all interactions between your pet and children.