Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
Please help! My sister’s cat is bleeding suddenly from her paw. I woke up this morning, and there was blood all over my floor. The cat, Whiskers, was sitting next to the mess, licking her left paw excessively. I looked more closely at her paw and there was blood dripping down the side of it. It just wouldn’t stop bleeding. She is a small, mostly outdoor, tuxedo DSH. She had 2 litters of kittens early this year. I am terribly worried about her. Any ideas?
Siouxsie: The first thing you should do when a cat is injured is call your vet. Describe what’s happening–in this case, you’d say that your cat is bleeding from an injury on her paw and it seems like the bleeding isn’t stopping–and ask them what to do. In this case, we’re pretty sure that they’d tell you to bring her in right away or take her to an emergency clinic.
Thomas: Then it’s time for some first aid. You need to control the bleeding, and the best way to do this is to put a pressure dressing on the wound in order to encourage the blood to clot. Take several sterile gauze squares and place them over the wound. Apply direct pressure for 5 to 10 minutes. Then leave the dressing in place and bandage it snugly (use medical tape to hold it in place). Be aware that the wound is painful, so your cat may resist treatment.
Dahlia: If you don’t have sterile gauze squares handy, any clean cloth like a thickly folded pad of clothing will do. Hold the dressing in place until help arrives or you get the cat to the vet.
Siouxsie: Don’t use paper towels or napkins as a pressure dressing. When you pull the napkin off, you may also pull the clot out and the wound will begin bleeding again. Also, pieces of napkin will stick in the wound and need to be cleaned out at the vet.
Thomas: When you get the cat to the vet, the first thing they’ll do is examine and clean the wound. Nearly all animal wounds are contaminated with dirt and bacteria. In order to prevent infection or tetanus, cleaning is crucial.
Dahlia: If you’re cleaning the wound at home, make sure your hands and any instruments you use are clean so you don’t get more bacteria in the wound. Do not use hydrogen peroxide! It doesn’t have much value as an antiseptic and it tends to damage the tissues and delay healing. If you’ve ever cleaned a wound with peroxide and you’ve seen the edges of the wound go white, that’s because the tissues are being damaged.
Siouxsie: Instead, clean the area around the wound with Betadine, diluted to a weak tea color. Then irrigate the wound to remove dirt and bacteria. Tap water is a perfectly good irrigant, because it doesn’t have much bacteria in it. Don’t cleanse the wound vigorously with a brush or gauze pad because this will cause bleeding.
Thomas: A large plastic syringe or a sink sprayer is a good way to irrigate the wound. Angle the sprayer so that the water flows over the surface of the wound rather than directly into it, so that the dirt and bacteria will be washed out of the injury rather than be driven deeper in.
Dahlia: Let us repeat that your vet is the one who should be doing the wound cleaning. You should bandage the wound and then get the cat to the vet.
Siouxsie: Home treatment is the choice of last resort in the case of injuries, and should only be used if there’s no way you can get to a vet or an emergency clinic. Improperly treated wounds can lead to abscesses or other infections.
Thomas: In fact, your cat’s wound could be a ruptured abscess that’s draining blood and pus.
Dahlia: If your cat has a large wound, bigger than half an inch or so, your vet will probably suture it to encourage the edges of the wound to heal together. You will get directions from the vet on how to change the wound dressings and how often to do so, as well as any antibiotic ointment he or she may prescribe to prevent infection.
Siouxsie: While you’re at the vet, please make an appointment to have your cat spayed. There are more than enough kittens in the world and you’re not doing your cat–or her kittens, or the legions of homeless kittens–any favors by allowing her to continue having litters. Spaying is also healthier for your cat in the long run as it reduces the risk of certain kinds of cancer and other health or behavior problems.
Thomas: Here’s an article Mama wrote about the benefits of spaying and neutering. If you’re worried about money, many humane societies offer low-cost spay/neuter clinics, and financial assistance is sometimes available as well.
Dahlia: We’re all “fixed” here, and it really was no problem at all. Mama dropped Siouxsie and me off at the vet on the morning of our surgery, and we stayed overnight to be monitored by the staff to make sure we didn’t have any major complications of surgery. Thomas got to go back home the same day!
Siouxsie: In any case, Daniel, the bottom line is that you need to do some first aid to stop the bleeding and get your cat to the vet for proper treatment. Good luck, and please let us know how everything went.