Draco’s tail

July 4, 2013

imagesAn otherwise uneventful evening surgery was suddenly interrupted a couple of weeks ago when some owners rushed their cat in.

“Draco”, a beautiful 2 year old Russian Blue cat had been lying in his bed all afternoon and even when the children came home from school, he had not shown any interest. When his owners had taken a closer look, they were shocked to find a 10 cm long skin tear on the underside of his tail. They scooped him up and rushed down to the surgery, bursting into the waiting room in a panic.

Despite being in a lot of pain, Draco allowed me to examine the injury. As I gently lifted his tail, there was a sickening crunch which told me that this was more than just a skin wound. I was suspicious that there was a bony injury deeper around the pelvis and that Draco had been hit by a vehicle. After discussion with the owners, Draco was admitted, anaesthetised and X rayed.

The X rays revealed fracture at the connection between his tail and his pelvis. Fractures in this area often require amputation of the tail but they can also be associated with damage to the nerves that supply the bladder. The skin wound that Draco had suffered was investigated and it was discovered that a huge pocket had been created all over his tail head where the skin and muscle had parted company. Grit and dirt had been pushed deep under his skin with the skin being torn very close to his bottom.

Simple amputation of the tail was impossible with the amount of contamination in the area so the wound was flushed with sterile water and the skin was sutured and drains were implanted under the skin.

The nerve damage to the bladder that can result from this kind of injury can be very difficult to manage but by the following day, much to everyone’s relief, Draco had passed urine and faeces. For the first couple of days, he made great progress and even started moving the tail but the crushing injury that had happened during the accident started to take its toll on the blood supply to the tail and after 5 or 6 days, it was obvious that the blood supply to the tail was not adequate and that Draco was going to require further surgery to amputate the tail.

The problem was that, because of the huge skin wound he had sustained, there simply was not enough skin to be able to stitch across the site of a tail amputation.

Under anaesthetic, I lifted a large flap of skin from over his back and drew it into the injured area, effectively using his own spare skin as a skin graft to close the hole.

Within a couple of days, Draco had adjusted his balance to cope with the loss of his tail and after 10 days of strict rest he has now had all his sutures removed and is back living life to the full. His bald bottom looks a little unusual at the moment but once his hair grows back, many people glancing at him will not even notice that he is missing his tail.

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