Dear Cat Parents,
So, I was reading People.com today (because that’s where I get my daily dose of hard-hitting facts on important current events), and saw that an actress from Chicago Fire recently passed away from sepsis. Sepsis is essentially a widespread inflammatory process stemming from an infection that can oftentimes become fatal. As I was reading this article, it mentioned a 12-year-old child who also passed away after developing sepsis from an infected cut that was not properly cleaned following a tumble during gym class. This made me think about cats and the cuts they can get.
Now, I don’t see many indoor cats with external wounds mainly because they’re, well, indoors. However, I have seen a fair amount of outdoor cats who get scrapes, cuts, and even abscesses from trauma or run-ins with other animals. When owners mention that they used hydrogen peroxide or alcohol to clean the wounds I usually want to yell, “NOOOOOOOO!!!! Don’t do that!”
Why? Because alcohol stings and hurts! Have you ever used hand sanitizer to clean your hand and then stung yourself only to realize that you actually had a cut on your finger that you weren’t aware of? OK, now think about if you had a bigger cut and then used alcohol to clean it. SO MUCH PAIN! Let’s be nicer to our cats, shall we?
So why not hydrogen peroxide? Because hydrogen peroxide can actually kill healthy tissue, which is why I don’t recommend it. We’re trying to save and keep the good tissue! The only reason I ever reach for a bottle of peroxide is to get blood out of my clothes. That’s it. I don’t even use it to induce vomiting in pets. By the way, please don’t do that. That’s old school. We’re better than that.
So, what do we use to clean external skin wounds? Well, my favorite antiseptic solution is called Hibiclens. It’s an over the counter solution that contains chlorhexidine gluconate, a very effective antimicrobial agent. I’ve used chlorhexidine solution in every hospital I’ve worked at for wound care. I, myself, keep a bottle of Hibiclens on hand not only for my pets but also for myself or the husband. It’s very safe to use on everyone.So before you go reaching for the alcohol or the hydrogen peroxide, take a step back and remember this post. Then go to your local Target, Walgreens, CVS, or any other drugstore and pick up a bottle of Hibiclens instead. It’ll make your cat much happier not to mention making your veterinarian very proud. And if the wound is deep or the area is swollen, please see your veterinarian. Immediate cleaning is just step one of the process to wound care. Deeper wounds and abscesses really need to be looked at by a veterinarian and oftentimes require a systemic antibiotic to prevent a worsening infection.
Thanks for reading,
Dr. Theresa Loo