My Cat's Wound Is Not Healing
See files for Cats
A cat's wound should start to heal as soon as it occurs. The healing process is a part of the feline's natural defenses which is vital to sustain life after trauma and other threats to their health. While healing is something we often take for granted, for a cat's wound to heal properly many different processes have to take place on a molecular level. These include hemostasis to stop the bleeding, scab formation for protection and regeneration of the tissue.
Since these various processes need to occur for a cat's wound to heal, it means there are various opportunities for something to go wrong. At AnimalWised, we investigate the reasons why my cat's wound is not healing.
How long does it take for a cat's wound to heal?
There are various causes of a cat receiving an open wound. These include fighting with other cats, traffic collisions or falls from height. As soon as the wound occurs, the cat's organism acts to repair the damage. This overall process of repair is divided into three main phases.
First, there is an inflammatory phase in which macrophages and neutrophils are recruited towards the lesion. A second proliferative phase lasting a few days occurs in which fibroblasts, keratinocytes and endothelial cells migrate to produce a new epithelialization with formation of granulation tissue and new blood vessels. The last stage is that of maturation in which excess collagen is degraded and the tissue is finally repaired.
As you can tell, this process of wound healing takes a certain amount of time. How much time is dependent on various factors, but the size and depth of the wound is one of the most important. Generally speaking, the normal duration of wound healing lasts:
- Shallow wounds: one to two weeks.
- Surgical or deep wounds: take several weeks to a month.
These general timelines for feline wound healing will depend on the wound maintenance. If the cut or lesion is not properly controlled, the healing process can take longer, the wound may not heal at all or systemic damage may occur.
You may wonder what you need to put on a cat wound to encourage healing. In the vast majority of cases, you should not put anything on the wound. For minor or superficial wounds, the healing process will be enough to allow skin to regenerate properly. In deep or large wounds, dead tissue must be debrided to eliminate necrotic remains, foreign bodies and other contaminants. They may require cleaning with antiseptics such as chlorhexidine for cats.
Reasons a cat's wound is not healing
As stated above, a cat's wound should heal on its own without problem. We may need to provide some additional care, but a healthy cat will have a healthy immune system to combat the trauma. Only in certain circumstances will a feline wound not heal properly.
One of the most common reasons for a delay in wound healing is the cat's own actions. When a cat has a wound, the healing process can cause itching of the skin, something the cat tries to relieve by licking the wound site. Unfortunately, doing so can often result in the wound reopening or removing the developing new tissue.
A cat's rough tongue is useful for removing hair, but it also means it can damage the healing wound. To prevent this from happening, we often have to use an e-collar to restrict the cat's access to the wound site. If we have more than one cat in the home, we may also need to separate them to prevent other cats licking the wound.
Another important factor in wound healing is the possibility of infection. This is especially the case in open wounds as they have a greater exposure to bacterial contamination. When a wound is infected, signs such as swelling, redness, a bad smell, burning and secretions can appear. We may also see systemic symptoms from the cat such as fever and decay in the cat.
A cat's wound may not be healing because a pathological process is affecting their ability to heal. These processes weaken the cat's immune response, often because it is compromised elsewhere. Such pathologies can include:
- Diabetes mellitus
- Arterial or venous disease
- Side effects of drugs (e.g. corticosteroids and other immunosuppressants)
- Advanced age
- Friction against the wound (e.g. licking or rubbing against objects)
- Infection and bacterial biofilms
- Ischemia or reduction of blood flow (poor circulation affects healing)
- Overweight and obesity
Senior cats have more fragile skin which can make wound healing take longer. The process of aging also means their organism functions at a reduce rate, meaning they have a slower inflammatory response. They are also more susceptible to chronic diseases which can weaken their immune response and the ability to heal wounds.
When a cat's wound does not heal, it can have serious repercussions on the cat's heal. Find out more with our article on why a cat has maggots in their wound.
What to do if a cat's wound is not healing
It is important to determine why your cat's wound is not healing. You will do this by taking the cat to your veterinarian. Once the main cause is established, they should tell you how to act to solve the problem, promote healing and restore the recovery of your cat's skin.
When the problem is due to physical issues such as licking, rubbing or attacks from other cats, the animal will need to be isolated. We should either use an e-collar or cover the wound to prevent the cat having access. This means the cat cannot groom the wound site and prevent healing.
If the wound is not healing due to an infection, a sample of the tissue will need to be taken. A lab culture can them be performed and antibiogram carried out to determine which antibiotics are effective in their individual case. This is important for the prevention of antimicrobial resistance, something that can be extremely dangerous and is becoming more frequent. In addition to antibiotic treatment, the wound must be properly disinfected and cleaned.
If the problem is organic, you may be able to expedite the healing process with ointments and topical treatments such as those containing ketanserin and asiaticoside tartrate. They speed healing by increasing tissue perfusion, activating fibroblasts and stimulating type 1 collagen. These balance the formation of a network of collagen fibers and are more resistance to tensile forces.
When a pathological problem is slowing down the wound healing process in cats, we need to treat it directly. The wound should then be able to heal more quickly once the underlying problem is addressed. If the problem is due to side effects of medication, we need to withdraw their use and the veterinarian can prescribe an alternative. Issues such as obesity and diabetes will require lifestyle changes.
This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.
If you want to read similar articles to My Cat's Wound Is Not Healing, we recommend you visit our Skin problems category.
- G. Perez. (2018). First aid for cats. Arcopress, S. L.
- Harvey, A., &Tasker, S. (Eds). (2014). Handbook of Feline Medicine. Ed. Sastre Molina, SL L´Hospitalet de Llobregat, Barcelona, Spain.