Friday, September 24, 2010

Infectious Lessons appears I spoke too soon in my last post in stating that Nikki's leg wound (from the mysterious fight she got into recently with a member of the neighborhood wildlife population) was totally healed. She certainly seems to feel better now and is in less pain than when she first acquired her injury -- like I noted previously, she's walking and running and jumping and climbing normally -- but today it became very evident that the wound was infected, contrary to my prior appraisal.

The picture below is of her upper right thigh area, and is included here NOT to gross anyone out but for the potential edification of any other cat-folks out there who might be wondering what an infected bite wound abscess looks like.

Note that this picture was taken AFTER:

- a significant amount of drainage had occurred
- I had cleaned the area with peroxide
- I had moved her fur out of the way to get a better look at the wound
- I had actually cut away some of the fur to allow for easier drainage / "airing out" of the site.

Part of why I started this blog was because, well, I consider myself to be accountable to my cats. Writing about them, and all that living with them and looking out for their well-being entails, is sort of a way of tangibly acknowledging that accountability. I don't expect to do everything perfectly no matter how I might try, and I think it would be inappropriate to present myself as never making any mistakes.

And on this occasion I think I made a pretty serious mistake in not examining Nikki's injury more carefully and monitoring it on a daily basis even after she seemed "better". I am now trying to read up a lot more extensively on feline first aid, because somehow until today I did not actually realize that the structure and function of their skin makes cats particularly prone to abscesses.

Basically, their skin is very tough and small wounds heal VERY quickly. Which might be a good thing for injuries that are actually superficial, but which makes it very easy for infections to develop and go undetected until they get really nasty.

I'd seen two tiny puncture wounds on Nikki's upper thigh a week ago, but since they weren't bleeding and I didn't see any sign of infection then, I didn't pay much more attention to them. It did seem like her fur was sticking out oddly on her right side, but since her fur is so incredibly dense (like polar-bear dense...she's rather unique for a Siamese in that regard) that didn't strike me as unusual enough to worry about. She regularly creates bizarre cowlick-esque structures when grooming herself, so until today I sort of offhandedly figured the "poofiness" on her side was just a combination of that and a bit of skin irritation.

BUT, I was wrong. And oddly enough, I have to credit Coraline with helping me figure this out.

See...earlier today, at around 1 PM or thereabouts, I decided to brush Nikki (given her astounding shedding prowess) and clip her nails a bit in preparation for her trip to the vet tomorrow. She doesn't mind brushing or nail-clipping so this was largely an uneventful process.

Things started getting vaguely eventful only when, shortly after Nikki's brushing session, Cora started acting weird. Specifically, when I laid down on the couch, she (Cora) walked up to me like she normally does and went to sit on my chest. But rather than settling down, she sniffed my shirt and backed up, almost as if something had frightened her. Then, when I got out some treats, Cora was happy enough to eat them off the floor, but refused to take them out of my hand.

This led me to wonder if maybe I'd touched something that Cora didn't like the smell of...and then it hit me that Nikki had basically crawled all over me when I was brushing her and holding her to clip her nails.


So, I went and found Nikki and picked her up to inspect her. I didn't see anything initially...but I noticed that part of my shirt sleeve was wet. Not only that, but it (and Nikki's right side) smelled really, really bad. Like a combination of...I don't know, rotting liquid garbage and swamp gas. I'd never smelled an infected wound before that point (lucky me...) but as soon as that reek hit my nose it suddenly dawned on me what was going on. And sure enough, when I parted Nikki's fur so that the skin was visible, there was...well, it sort of resembled a crater.

Nearest I can tell, she managed to pull a scab out sometime today, which released a cascade of whatever had been festering under her skin. After doing a bit of reading on abscesses in cats I was actually rather relieved to consider this, seeing as it's a lot worse if they don't drain -- sometimes the vet will end up having to open the wound manually, or insert some sort of drainage tube. And I am even more relieved that Nikki managed to essentially lance the wound herself seeing as I didn't realize something was seriously wrong until she did. to the vet tomorrow we shall go, where hopefully they can more accurately assess the extent of the damage and perhaps prescribe some antibiotics, or at the very least give me some additional helpful instructions on caring for the wound properly until it heals. I am not TOO worried, seeing as Nikki does not seem to have lost her appetite or become feverish (she definitely isn't lethargic...) but I do want to get this dealt with in addition to her tooth so it doesn't get worse or cause her any more undue pain.

Oh yeah. And I also want to take this opportunity to say HOORAY FOR VACCINES! If Nikki hadn't had all her shots (which she has, as have all the other kitties here) I would be utterly freaking out right now about feline leukemia or worse. I know, I know, they're not 100% guaranteed to be effective but they're a whole heck of a lot better than no protection at all.


  1. Hi Anne,

    our cats also had their fare share of infected puncture wounds - usually sustained from fights with neighbouring cats.
    The problem with these bites are that they are, as you said, puncture wounds that close very quickly, but also that a considerable amount of bacteria are transferred into the wound, which allows the infection to develop in the first place. Our vet normally gives them a shot of antibiotics, which we follow up with a 10-day course of AB. That usually sorts it out pretty quickly. The other important thing is to keep the wound open, which the cats usually managed to do quite well, but I have also used a sterilised pair of tweezers or a scalpel or scissors to open a wound again.

    All the best for Nikki


  2. Connie: Yeah from what I've been reading/hearing, this kind of injury is fairly common in cats who go outdoors. There are several other cats in this neighborhood I've seen around so Nikki could certainly have been fighting with one of them, though we've also got plenty of squirrels and opossums and probably raccoons.

    I wrote an update post this evening...short version is that Nikki did indeed get a shot of antibiotics today, and is now on pain meds, equipped with a lampshade collar, and being given warm compress treatments several times a day. Apparently the puncture went pretty deep and the infection "pocket" was close to three inches across.

    But it's draining well now and the vet says she should be much, much better by Monday. If she isn't they might need to give her more antibiotics but the wound already looks MUCH better, so hopefully things will settle down soon. The warm compress treatments should keep the wound open -- so far that's definitely turning out to be the case, and I am also still periodically cleaning the site with peroxide.

    Nikki is also doing a pretty good job herself of helping keep things open...despite being slightly loopy from the pain meds she definitely isn't inclined to just lie around!


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