How To Heal An Open Wound
by Elisa Black-Taylor
Sealys Head Injury
I feel I've had a crash course in how to heal an open wound in dealing with our car fan blade injured cat Sealy. I want to share some of what I've learned with the readers at pictures-of-cats.org.
Looking cool. Photo by Elisa.
The reason I want to share what I've learned is we've made a lot of mistakes and near mistakes while dealing with his very horrific injury. His original story can be found here: Treating a Cat with a Car Fan Blade Injury.
It's been difficult dealing with the time frame it may take for Sealy's injury to heal. Slow progress is very hard to watch. He was injured by a car fan blade two months ago and we're still dealing with a very exposed wound. In this instance, this is how it must remain in order for it to heal properly.
The vet measured it over the weekend and the size at this point is 3cm. X 4cm. It had crusted over just a tad and Sealy hadn't knocked that part of his scab off. As it turned out, Sealy has been properly caring for his wound on his own. There was a bit of infection under the scab and on top of the wound. It was so minute as to not be a major concern.
An open wound must remain open in order to heal. If it scabs over, infection may form under the scab and on top of the wound. Scabs are there for a purpose - to protect and allow the skin underneath to reform and heal. But in Sealy's case infections formed under the scab so the wound has to be open and the environment kept sterile (which protects the wounded area).
Infections can't be allowed happen in as serious an injury as Sealy has. It would be a large area for infection to gather and it could prove dangerous for a wound of that size. I looked at several diagrams online of how an open wound heals. First tissues build up and repairs itself at the bottom of the wound. This isn't seen by the eye and there are a lot of long words to describe what the cells are doing to repair themselves.
After the wound has healed from the bottom, it will begin to heal from the sides. In other words, the circle will become smaller and smaller over time.
I read it can take months (and months and months) for a severe injury to heal. The main thing we must do, we are advised, is to keep the scab picked off and to keep Sealy in as sterile an environment as possible.
Sealy's still living in his large cage at night. We do take him out and hold him for several hours a day. He also lays on his blanket on the couch. Please don't think us cruel for continuing to keep him in a cage. Any bacteria that gets into the wound could cause serious problems. His bedding is changed as soon as it's soiled. Everything is washed in hot water. The white sheets we use are washed in hot water with bleach. Liquid fabric softener is used with each load to ensure his bedding is soft so as not to scrape his open wound.
By the way, his favorite thing is ear rubs behind his good ear.
Sealy's vet told us to put Preparation H on his wound twice a day. I thought this was a stupid way to heal an open wound. Why not use triple antibiotic or hydra cortisone or burn cream? The Preparation H has turned out to be an excellent cream for a open wound. This keeps it moist and also cuts down on any itch. We believe Sealy suffered a lot of nerve damage because he doesn't even flinch when we drop the ointment onto his ear wound. The ointment is cold and should get a reaction out of him if he had any feeling in the area.
In my opinion, this remedy is very valuable information for cat owners as it doesn't cause the wound to become infected. If you read the instructions on most first aid creams, they all state "do not use in open wounds."
It's almost comical some of the ways we tried to protect Sealy from himself before the vet explained why the wound shouldn't be allowed to scab over. I cringed every time I found Sealy had knocked his scabs off while grooming. Since the injury would be severely irritated by an Elizabethan collar, Laura and I both got really creative in protecting the area. Here are some of our efforts.
- Bandaged left front and left back paws with gauze and surgical tape. Sealy pulled it off.
- Placed infant socks on left front and left back paws and secured with duck tape. Sealy pulled it off.
- Placed a hooded flannel garment on Sealy and pinned hood under his chin to make it tighter and protect the wound from his unwrapped paws. He managed to push the hood back and scratch anyway.
- Placed the hooded flannel garment on Sealy. Then placed infant socks on front and back left paws and pinned socks to underside of flannel garment using very large infant diaper pins. Sealy slipped out of the socks.
After those failed attempts, we finally gave up and returned to trying to keep his left paws wrapped. I worried because the tape and the gauze could both knock off the scabs while he was washing up. Our goal became to keep him from drawing blood when he groomed himself.
So for the past week we've had a cat who would groom himself and knock the scabs off each time.
Which turned out to be exactly what was supposed to happen in order for it to heal. Sealy knew best after all!
As of this past Saturday, his left paws have remained wrapped. We have to change the bandages every few days when they begin to look soiled. His wbc (white blood cell) count has dropped from 64000 to 16000, which is excellent. The vet had never seen such a high count and at the same time the cat not be on deaths door. His weight has climbed from 5.5 pounds two weeks ago to 6.0 pounds over the weekend. And his temperature has dropped from 104.5 to 102.5F. His antibiotic was changed from Baytril to Clavamox due to the wee bit of infection dripping from under the one scab Sealy had missed knocking off.
Sealy will continue to visit the vet until he's healed. His inner ear still has a lot of infection. A lot of people have asked me if he can hear out of that ear. We don't know and we don't care. We do know Sealy can hear out of the uninjured ear. He perks up whenever I say his name. Our main concern isn't his hearing ability. Healing the open wound is our main priority. The rest will just have to fall into place.
We're also not going to have a bunch of tests run to find out if there's brain damage or nerve damage or whatever. These tests would be very expensive and wouldn't change how Sealy is. We love him regardless and he's been through enough. Most of the tests people have wanted us to do would require anesthesia and would also place him under more stress than he's already experienced. Sealys just Sealy, missing ear and lopsided head and all the rest that goes along to make him a very special cat.
He's a survivor. A very hungry one, if I do say so myself. I don't know how much of his food is going into repairing his body, but Sealy has convinced us human servants that five packets a day of his favorite food - Whiskas Purrfectly Fish - is a good start. This is supplemented by baked shredded chicken breast.
I never knew how to heal an open wound until Sealy came along. Now I feel I've had to become an expert on the subject.
Do any of you have any tips to offer me? We still have a long road ahead of us until he's healed and I just want to do what's best for my baby.