Made up of many small bones – also known as vertebrae – as well as ligaments, tendons and nerves, and connected to the spine, your kitty’s tail is incredibly important in several different ways. It aids in balance, helps keep them warm, and plays a role in bowel control. On top of this, a tail is a communication tool in the feline world. Needless to say, injuries to the tail can have an adverse impact on some or all of these functions. Unfortunately, accidents and injuries do happen even when pet parents are doing everything they can to prevent them. If your kitty has turned up with an injured, bitten or fractured tail, you will need to treat it properly as quickly as possible to prevent further damage and complications. Here’s how you can do just that.
One of the most common types of feline tail injuries are abrasions. These are simple wounds that involve the removal of the superficial layer of the skin. Abrasions are almost always the result of friction where the skin of the cat scrapes or rubs against a rough surface. For example, a cat may flick its tail against a wire fence or rough concrete steps. In such cases, the hair can get stuck and removed, leaving the skin exposed. Because the topmost layer of the skin gets scraped off in an abrasion, the deeper layers of the skin get exposed. This can be very painful.
The good thing is that abrasions can heal on their own. However, for good measure, it is best to treat this type of cat tail injury by cleaning it with hydrogen peroxide. If you don’t have hydrogen peroxide, clean the wound with warm water and mild soap. Be very gentle when cleaning the affected part as it can sting. Once you are done with the cleaning, apply an appropriate antibiotic ointment. The removal of the topmost layer of the skin can introduce microorganisms into the deeper layers, and applying a topical antibiotic serves as a prophylactic treatment against secondary infections.
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Wrap a self-adhering bandage around the section with the abrasion. Do not use adhesive tape as the cat’s fur can stick to it. Make sure to wrap the bandage neither too loose nor too tight; you do not want the bandage falling off or restricting blood flow to the far side of the tail. It is also important to reapply topical antibiotic and to change the bandage every day. If your cat’s tail has a serious, large abrasion, you may want to put an E-collar on them to deter them from chewing at the dressing.
During the wound dressing change, it is important to assess the abrasion for signs of healing. If there is swelling, excessive bleeding, or a change in the color of the skin, it is recommended to bring the cat to the vet. Pain medications and more powerful antibiotics may be necessary to facilitate wound healing.
This type of a cat tail tip injury often occurs when a cat tries to run away from another animal which then latches on to its tail. Some bite wounds can also be self-inflicted though: if a cat has a flea infestation, it will try to bite the area in an effort to soothe the intense itching. Unfortunately, the animal may bite into its own skin, resulting in self-inflicted bite wounds.
The major issue here is the development of secondary infections. Regardless of which animal bit the cat’s tail, the bite itself can deliver microorganisms deep into the skin of the tail. In some cases, the animal that bit the cat may have rabies or other pathogens that it can introduce into the cat’s system.
The first thing you have to do is to wash the area with warm water and mild soap. If there is bleeding, apply direct pressure using a sterile gauze pad. If you don’t have any, then use a clean piece of cloth. Remove the pressure and apply a topical antibiotic. This will help initiate the antimicrobial action on the wound. Apply a sterile gauze and wrap it in a bandage. It may be wise to give your cat an appropriate analgesic to help alleviate the pain.
However, if the bite wounds are severe and the skin looks like it needs some stitching, it is critical to bring the cat to the vet. Severe bite wounds require sedating the cat. This will help the vet to flush the wound with a sterile solution to get rid of any microorganisms and debris that may already be in the wound. This is a very painful procedure, which is why it is important to put the cat to sleep. Only after flushing and cleaning the wound can the vet start with the antibiotic and analgesic treatment.
Depending on the severity of the wound, you may have to continue with the treatment at home. It is also wise to restrict your cat’s activities indoors. Letting it out can increase the risk of wound infections.
Dislocation and/ Or Fracture
The main difference between a fracture and a dislocation is the presence of a break in the bone in fracture. In other words, your pet may have a cat broken tail. On the other hand, dislocations occur when two opposing bones fall out of their normal alignment. There is no break in the continuity of the bone.
Feline tail dislocations can be due to the cat’s tail getting yanked or pulled by small kids or by another animal. It can also be due to being run over by a car or a bike. The tail can also get caught in a door. These incidents can pull the tail vertebra to slip out of its position. When it comes to fractures, the most common cause are falls. However, it is also possible that a heavy object falls and hits the cat’s tail, resulting in fracture.
In either case, only a veterinarian can provide a more definitive treatment. However, you can try to immobilize the tail while you bring the animal to the clinic. It is important to prevent unnecessary movements of the tail as it can worsen the fracture. Putting a padded splint often helps in immobilizing the tail. Do not attempt to “put back” a dislocated tail; you might end up pinching a nerve.
The treatment for cat tail fractures often depends on the location and severity of the injury. If it is a cat tail tip injury, then there may not be a need for treatment, as the injury can heal on its own. However, you may still need to give the cat an analgesic and anti-inflammatory to help alleviate pain and reduce swelling.
If the fracture is severe or the tail bone is crushed, then the distal section of the tail may require amputation. The problem is when the fracture occurs near the base of the cat’s tail. In such cases, you can expect nerve damage.
Regardless of how nimble your kitty may be, there is always a risk of getting burn injuries. A cat may hop onto the kitchen countertop and brush their tail on a very hot pot or pan. A cup of hot water may tip over and drip on the cat’s tail. It is also possible that the cat can suffer from chemical burns such as getting in contact with bleach, cleaning products, and battery acid. Superficial burn injuries are very painful. The cat’s skin can swell and form blisters, and in some cases, the skin can peel. Secondary infections are always a threat when it comes to burn injuries.
For thermal burns, it is important to cool the area at once. Place your cat in the bathtub and put its burned tail under cool running water for about 10 minutes. This will help put a stop to the burning process. As long as there is heat in the affected area, it will continue to destroy tissue. That is why it is imperative to cool the area under running water for this long.
An alternative will be to apply a cold compress to the affected section. Do not apply ice as it can further damage the tissue. Also, do not apply oil, cream, lotion, or butter. Just secure the cold compress by wrapping it with a bandage. Take your cat to the vet for more definitive treatment. In most cases, the vet will prescribe the appropriate antibiotics as well as pain medication, and you will have to continue the treatment at home.
Treating chemical burns is almost the same as the management of thermal burns. However, it is important to flush the area with cool water first. This will help remove any chemicals that may still be present on the cat’s tail. Place the affected part under cool running water for at least 15 minutes.
Skin Infections and Abscesses
Abscesses and skin infections are the direct result of a break in skin integrity. Abrasions, bite wounds, and burn injuries can almost always lead to the development of secondary infections. This is especially true in instances where the first aid for the wounds are not carried out in the correct way or in a timely manner.
Skin infections can also develop as a result of allergic reactions and flea bite dermatitis. In either case, there is a break in the skin. This break serves as an opening for resident microorganisms on the cat’s skin. Aside from these, microorganisms from the environment can also enter the skin and cause infection. If the infection leads to the formation of pus, then you may have what’s called an abscess.
Treating skin infections starts with addressing the cause of the infection. If it is due to flea bites, then the right flea treatment is necessary. If it is due to traumatic injuries, then it is critical to treat these as well. Antibiotics are a must when it comes to treating skin infections. If the infection has already spread, topical antibiotics will not work.
If there is an abscess, clip the hair around the affected area. Place a hot, moist compress over it. This will cause the lymph vessels to dilate, allowing for the more efficient drainage of the pus. At the same time, it will increase blood flow to the area and bring the immune system cells to the wound. Apply a hot compress for about 20 minutes, twice or thrice a day. Make sure to clean the affected area with hydrogen peroxide and antibacterial soap. You should see improvement within 3 days. If not, it is best to seek veterinary help.
Any of the above-mentioned feline tail injuries can also lead to nerve damage. One has to understand that there are nerve fibers that run from the base of the tail right down to the tip. These nerve fibers carry impulses from the spinal cord so that the cat can move its tail.
If there is a cat tail tip injury, it is possible that the nerve fibers at the tip of the cat’s tail are damaged, too. In such cases, there will be a neuritic type of pain. The treatment will require the administration of painkillers. In most cases, the vet will prescribe cat-appropriate nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
If the injury occurs near the base of the tail, there is a chance that major nerve fibers of the cauda equina are damaged. These nerve fibers control the muscles of the urinary bladder and the anal sphincter. In other words, if there is damage to these nerves, then the cat may lose its ability to control defecation and urination. This can also lead to secondary infections because of incompetent sphincters. Bacteria and other germs can enter through these openings and cause infection. Nerve damage at the base of the tail can also lead to paralysis.
Depending on the location and severity of the nerve damage, this type of injury can heal on its own or it may require tail amputation.
To sum up, the effective treatment of cat tail injuries depends on the type of injury that the cat suffers from. Minor abrasions and wounds typically don’t require veterinary attention. However, deeper and more serious injuries require prompt veterinary care to prevent complications.
- 7 Common Cat Tail Injuries – PetMD