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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Skin Problems and Wounds - A Common Problem

4 years ago we wrote a basic post on skin problems in cats and how to go about localising the cause and how to treat it. It is now 2014 and our knowledge base has grown, so here is time for an update on skin problems, including wounds, which we now encounter a far lot more because of our work with injured stray cats.

Let's look at wounds first, most easy to recognise, and how they are usually treated both by vets and what you can do at home or in a fostering situation.

This is a common sight especially in stray cats, when they get into fights, be it with new stray cats entering their area because that is what sterilised cats do, or as unsterilised cats, fighting for mating territory.

Bite wound that is infected
Very often, when untreated, the bite wound gets infected grows into an abscess, that is like pus-filled wound, that often bursts and creates a large hole in the skin requiring surgery.

What can you do when you a see a stray cat that has a bite wound? If you know the bite wound is recent, before it gets infected, start cleansing the wound if the cat allows you to. Remember to always handle a cat by the scruff when administering medical care of any kind. Simple ways to disinfect the wound would be to clean it with saline, diluted chlorhexadine, or hydrogen peroxide, available from any human pharmacy. If you clean it constantly it will help prevent an infection and the wound should heal on its own without getting inflamed.

However, if a wound is inflamed, it will look angry, red instead of pink, and possibly oozing pus or swollen, or if an abscess has already burst, it will be an open hole in the skin. This requires antibiotics and, if after a course of antibiotics, usually for 2 weeks, a wound that doesn't close will require surgery thereafter. In such a scenario, you should take it to a vet. If you do not have funds for a vet's charges, look up our Emergency Response Fund for help.

It will be good if you can foster the cat in the meantime to give it its pre-surgery antibiotics, and thereafter allow it to heal until the stitches can be removed, as it is a very short time. Otherwise, you can either either medicate it while it is on the streets if you see the cat every day, or you can turn to our Foster Network for help, or ask people you know to be a foster caregiver to work in tandem. In terms of veterinary care, the antibiotics given will usually be Clavulox which is a twice a day oral antibiotics, wound cleaning topically with saline or peroxide or chlorhexadine and a topical cream such as Duoderm, Combiderm, Bactroban or an antibiotic cream such as one containing gentamicin. After the surgery there is usually no need to clean the wound, and only oral medication such as painkillers will be necessary as vets usually give a long-acting antibiotics jab (you can double-check with the vet).

Supplements and holistic remedies you can do to help a cat's wound recover more quickly are plentiful. In term of oral supplements which you can purchase from iherb.com (use our discount code AVA985 to get a first-time purchase discount of USD5-10 off). We buy human supplements and half the dose for cats. If the cat does not like the taste we try a quarter dose. Some cats really do reject the supplements, which will not be that detrimental but will slow the healing process in our experience.

Here are the list of supplements you can give for cats recovering from wounds.

Vitamin B

Curcumin (also comes in smaller bottle)

Licorice

Colloidal Silver

If the cat is in pain, you can administer a homeopathic pain remedy:

Heel BHI tablets
(Side note about Heel BHI tablets: be it for inflammation pain, muscle pain or injury, we find that all the Heel BHI pain relief tablets have the same effect for pain relief).

If the cat's pain is very obvious, you can turn to diffusing essential oils for pain relief. The 3 oils that are useful for animal pain relief are myrrh, copaiba and helichrysum. Myrrh is available from iherb.com, but copaiba and helichrysum are only available at Young Living (see here on how to purchase from Young Living). This combination of myrrh, copaiba and helichrysum is useful for any pain relief situation for any cat illness or injury.

In terms of any other skin abnormalities that are not wounds, be it fur loss or patchy skin or skin that looks like the cat has been scratching, the very first step you should do is to apply Revolution to the cat. This is because problems like fur mites (mange) and flea dermatitis are usually the most common in all skin problems. By applying Revolution to the cat, you already eliminate two possible sources that the skin problem may stem from.

If after 3 weeks, which is about the time a cat takes to regenerate new fur, there is no regrowth, then you can consider eliminating other possible problems to finally isolate what is the skin issue. In the meantime, if your cat tends to scratch or lick the area, you can do a few things. One, use apple cider vinegar to dab on the affected skin - you can dilute at a ratio of 50-50. Not only is apple cider vinegar antibacterial, it is also sour to taste and thus discourages cats to lick the area. Secondly, you can get your cat to wear an e-collar. Most cats will hate the idea, so try the apple cider vinegar first.

Look at the spots where your cat's fur loss or inflamed skin is. Is it at the hindlegs, anal region, tail area? Your cat may be allergic to the cat litter you are using. Is it around the mouth area? Your cat may be allergic to the food or the food bowls have bacterial accumulation (especially if plastic). Is it on non-specific areas of the body, and timely with air pollution such as haze? It could be an airborne allergen. Is it at its paws, where it contacts the ground when it sits or lies down? It could be allergic to a floor or upholstery cleaner.

For allergies, switching to natural products in the home will help. Use pine or paper litter. Avoid chemical air fresheners and household cleaners such as enzyme cleaners (we like the Biokleen range from iherb.com, affordable), or use Young Living Thieves collection which includes household cleaners and surface disinfectants that contain no chemicals. Diffusing Thieves essential oil blend also helps with allergies. Read here on how to sign up and buy Thieves products.

Affordable oil diffuser from iherb


If you have exhaustively ruled out allergens, take your cat to the vet to get a skin scrape test to eliminate bacterial and fungus infections. This way, your cat will get the right medication for the right problem. By already applying Revolution, eliminating allergens, you already isolate the causes and will be able to work with your vet better to make sure your cat is on the road to having a nice full coat again. Apart from medication, ask your vet which shampoos and conditioners will be useful for the diagnosed skin condition. Some bacterial conditions will benefit from salicylic acid ingredient in shampoos, for example.

The supplements indicated for wounds above, are also useful for inflamed skin. You can also consider:

Fish oil, also available in smaller dose
Coconut oil (use topically)






For coconut oil, it is supposed to regenerate hair growth, and if licked by your cat, it is also beneficial as it is a medium chain fatty acid.

Clinical research has also shown that a B vitamin, biotin, has been useful for dogs with skin problems.

Biotin

If your cat's skin condition is stress-induced, a lot of work over a long period of time will be needed to finally bring your cat back to a healthy immune system that will not be in overdrive due to stress. This often means the build up of the immune system through supplements such as vitamin B, colostrum, and probiotics at the very minimum.

Tl;dr version of this post: use Revolution on your cat at the first sign of any skin problem, and get your cat to the vet for a skin scrape test to get the problem diagnosed.

Hope this article has been useful. Do share it with anyone you come across who has complaints about skin problems seen on their cats or on stray cats.



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