In fights between cats, bite injuries often occur. Dogs also bite cats sometimes and then the risk of extensive damage is great. The bite injury can be superficial or deeper and perforate through the skin. With perforating wounds, there is always a risk of pocket formation occurring in the cat’s loose subcutaneous tissue.
The damage can be more extensive inside the skin than seen from the outside. Large pockets between skin and subcutaneous tissue can be caused by the wear and tear, even though only small holes are visible in the skin. Bite injuries can also cause crush injuries to the skin, subcutaneous tissue and sometimes to the muscles.
Swelling and pain usually occur within a few hours after the bite. Many cats become depressed, eat less and many get a fever. Bite on the face can cause eye damage and nerve damage. In case of bite injuries in the vicinity of joints, the infection can spread to the joint.
The abdomen is fragile and bite injuries here can have serious consequences such as hernias, internal bleeding, intestinal injuries and peritonitis. Bite over the chest can cause a leakage of air into the chest cavity, which causes the lungs to collapse when the negative pressure in the chest cavity disappears. The cat may have difficulty breathing and the situation can quickly become critical.
Treatment by a veterinarian
All bite wounds should be considered as infected wounds because dogs and cats normally have a rich bacterial flora in the skin. Depending on the extent of the damage, cleaning and thorough inspection of the wound is performed during sedation (ie, using sedatives) or anesthesia.
After thorough cleaning of the wound, the need for further examination and treatment is assessed. Bit wounds that perforate the skin are probed with a metal probe with which the veterinarian examines whether there are larger pocket formations under the skin or deeper damage to the chest or abdominal cavity.
The most common bite injuries usually occur in the skin and subcutaneous tissue. In case of bite injuries over or near joints, the joint is punctured to rule out or detect if there is an infection in the joint. In case of possible spread, the joint is rinsed, sometimes repeatedly with table salt to try to prevent bacterial growth.
If the bite damage is small, the wound is usually rinsed clean. Bit wounds are not sewn together in most cases. They should be kept open so that wound secretions are drained out and healed from within. The need to use antibiotics is assessed on a case-by-case basis. Bit-injured cats are usually judged to be in need of pain relief.
For pocket formations that are deeper than just a few centimeters, the wound must be drained with a drainage hose of soft material that is inserted into the wound cavity and sewn to the wound edge.
If the wound pockets under the skin are large, sometimes more drainage hoses are required to avoid infection and for the wound cavity to heal. The drainage hoses are usually left for 3-4 days. If you let them sit for too long, they can interfere with wound healing.
If an abscess has arisen and ruptured on its own, the wound should usually still be drained. Otherwise there is a great risk that the wound only heals on the surface and a new abscess will follow, as the infection under the skin remains.
What can you do yourself?
Examine the cat thoroughly after the event. The injuries can be difficult to detect, especially when the cat has been bitten by another cat. It is an advantage to cut off the fur at the wound opening to be able to keep clean and follow the healing more easily. The collar should always be used to prevent the cat from licking the wound.
Minor bite injuries can sometimes heal on their own, especially if they are cleaned and kept open so that any wound fluid drains out.
When should a veterinarian be consulted?
The veterinarian should be consulted if perforating wounds in the skin occur after a bite injury, or if the cat is generally affected. If the bite has occurred at sensitive places, such as near a joint or over the chest or abdominal cavity, a veterinarian should always be contacted.
The cat’s general condition and the extent of the bite injury determine how urgent the need to seek care is, but with an early visit, the risk of infection and the need for antibiotic use is reduced. In the event of a severely affected general condition of the bitten cat, urgent care is required.
It is important that the cat does not lick or bite the wound. The collar is usually used until the wound has healed. The drainage hose is usually removed after 3-5 days and any stitches are normally removed after 10-14 days. Sometimes several follow-ups may be necessary.
According to the law on the supervision of dogs and cats, the owner is responsible for what their animal causes, regardless of whether the animal is to blame or not and regardless of the circumstances surrounding the incident. The owner of the causing animal must thus reimburse the victim with veterinary care costs and other expenses.
If the owner of the causing animal makes himself known, it is advisable to note the name and telephone details. This should be done even if the damage does not look so serious from the beginning. It may turn out later that the animal needs care.
It is common for the owner of the causing animal to reimburse the veterinary care costs incurred as a result of the injury. Medications and other related costs can also be reimbursed. This is usually reimbursed via the pet owner’s liability insurance which is usually included in the home insurance.