February 5, 2013

Pet Connection Q&A: Cat's infected wound needs vet treatment

My cat got into a fight again and now he has an infection. I just can't afford another trip to the vet. What can I do at home?

My cat got into a fight again and now he has an infection. I just can't afford another trip to the vet. What can I do at home?

You need to take your cat to the veterinarian, because cat bites can be very serious. After this issue is resolved, you can save money through prevention – and that means keeping your cat inside.

Why? Because this common feline health problem is often the result of a puncture wound, specifically a bite from another cat during a fight over territory or mates.

Nearly every free-roaming cat needs to see a veterinarian from time to time to have an abscess treated – and by "treated," I mean surgically opened, flushed clean of debris, and sometimes temporarily held open by drains to let the wound heal with the help of time and some strong antibiotics.

A cat's mouth is a nasty mix of bacteria, and once that bacteria gets punched into another cat's body, the result will probably be an abscess. Think about it – bacteria being injected with two hypodermic needles (the cat's fangs) into a perfect incubator (another cat's 101-plus-degree body). The only possible outcome is infection.

That's also why even relatively minor cat bites can become serious medical issues for humans, leading to hospitalization in some cases. Any time you're bitten or scratched by an animal, you should wash the area immediately with soap and water, and have the wound checked out by your doctor.

– Dr. Marty Becker

The buzz

Landmark study looks at dogs' health for life

The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study was developed by the Morris Animal Foundation, the Flint Animal Cancer Center at Colorado State University and the Golden Retriever Club of America. It will track the health status of goldens as they age and the environments in which they live. This includes everything from food and exercise to exposure to pesticides to the water they drink. The study will collect data on cancers, diabetes, arthritis and epilepsy, among other health issues. Golden retrievers under age 2 are being sought, with more information available at

Search-and-rescue dogs don't need to worry about their jobs. Researchers at the University of Dortmund in Germany are working to identify chemical scent compounds that could be "sniffed" by a machine to help find people who are lost or caught in collapsed buildings. So far, the team has found a dozen compounds that might work, but it is a long way from matching a dog's scenting ability.

Keeping dogs and cats continues to be popular, according to the findings of the American Veterinarian Medical Association in its newly released "U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook." The survey of 50,000 households puts the number of cats in the United States at 74.1 million and the number of dogs at 70 million – both figures down slightly from the last survey five years ago. The most dramatic drop has been in the number of horses, down 2.4 million in the same period, to 4.8 million in 2012.

– Gina Spadafori

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