Veterinarian - San Diego
1540 Morena Boulevard
San Diego, CA 92110



By Heather Beeson of Morena Pet Hospital
July 05, 2012
Category: Pet Care
Tags: Untagged


Abscesses are a common skin condition in cats attributed to bite wounds.  These wounds tend to get disguised in the fur coat, allowing them to go unnoticed to owners, and giving bacteria time to accumulate, causing soreness, inflammation, and pus build-up.  Typically, routine surgery is performed to debride (or cut away) any diseased tissue and allow the abscess to drain.  Usually once the abscess is open, drained, and antibiotics are administered, the wound heals up right away.  Usually…

Unfortunately for one client and cat, these usual circumstances were a far cry from what actually occurred.  Here we tell of Ms. Gene Harlow and her resilient nature that willed her to live.

Ms. Gene Harlow initially presented to us with a laceration near her left groin.  Gustaf, her owner had come to MPH for a second opinion; Ms. Gene had not completely healed from a previous abscess surgery.  The wound had opened up, exposing 5-6 cm of underlying muscle on her left leg and groin area.  Unfortunately for Ms. Gene, this meant she had to undergo another surgical procedure in order to remove the necrotic, dead tissue, flush the wound, and re-suture the remaining tissue.  She was placed on pain medication and a broad-spectrum antibiotic to promote healing and was confined to the indoors for 2 weeks until her sutures were removed.

To her owner’s dismay, come time for Ms. Gene’s re-check exam and suture removal, the wound had again opened up.  Yet another surgery was performed to remove more of the affected tissue and Ms. Gene was placed on a longer course of multiple antibiotics.  Blood samples were collected and an FELV/FIV test was performed at this time (FELV and FIV are viruses that can suppress the immune system and affect the healing process); results were within normal limits and the FELV/FIV result was negative.

A month had now gone by with Ms. Gene’s wound still refusing to heal.  Dr. Potter was now attributing her inability to heal to an underlying health problem (resistant infection, movement, etc.).  Further recommendations, such as a surgical specialist, aerobic culture, bandage to immobilize, and changing antibiotics, were discussed.  Ultimately, after biopsy samples of the non-healing wound were submitted for cultures of bacteria, including mycobacterium which requires months of medication to resolve and are very resistant (think of TB or leprosy), and Ms. Gene being hospitalized with daily bandage changes, it was concluded that dis-use of the infected leg for so long and a lack of viable tissue remaining for suturing led to a decision to amputate her leg.

Months had gone by and realizing this is one of the last ways to allow Ms. Gene to have a quality life outside of veterinary offices and surgical wards, Gustaf had to make one of the toughest decisions to date: to amputate Ms. Gene’s leg. 

The amputation surgery went well for the most part.  A deep pocket/tract that penetrated up to the spine was found.  It was flushed well and a drain was placed to encourage fluid drainage from the area.  A resistant mycobacterium was suspected and upon consultation with the UC Davis microbiology department, Ms. Gene was to continue the long-term antibiotic course and to be put on a third antibiotic treatment (azithromycin).

Finally after months and months of treatments, surgeries, and consultations, Ms. Gene was allowed to return home and is doing great.  At her last recheck appointment, Ms. Gene Harlow’s wound appeared to be healing and the fluid secretion had ceased.   Although Ms. Gene has been left with only three legs, she is getting around quite well and has gotten a second chance.  This just goes to show how a cat’s resilient nature and steadfast personality can continue to flourish with the help of compassionate human care and the determination and love of an owner!