Nip and tuck


Third in a series

I worked carefully and fast. Gucci, the tortoise shell cat, maintained strong vitals as I debrided (trimmed) the edges of her intestinal wounds and sutured them closed. A lot could still go wrong; I was counting on her robust immune system for all the help it could muster. On my way out of this tough kitty’s abdomen I placed tubes and drains for daily irrigation over the next few days.

Small creatures can lose a lot of heat when their body cavities are open to room air. We’d kept our patient wrapped in a warm water circulating blanket during surgery but she still had me worried. As I placed the last stitch in her skin her subnormal 92.4 degree temperature had us quickly snuggling her into a thick towel surrounded by warm water bottles. Very slowly her paws started to flex and then her eyes opened. I couldn’t wait to ask her, “What the heck did you eat that poked 8 holes in your guts?”

Instead I called Gucci’s person, Jerri, at her business. Jerri was a hair dresser, so like veterinarians of that era, she worked on Saturdays. Jerri picked up on the first ring. Through the whir of blow dryers and background chattering I explained that surgery had gone well and that her sweet kitty was still under the influence but was sleeping it off. She would not be allowed to drive or lift heavy objects for several days. We would watch her like a hawk but, of course, there were no guarantees. Infection risk was still high.

We stayed late so Jerri could visit Gucci after she finished the day’s last coloring. She held her swaddled cat tight against her chest and stroked her head as I explained the details of what lay ahead. I remember this odd feeling as we spoke, that Jerri was looking at my hair more than my eyes. Maybe she wanted to trade her work with scissors for mine with a scalpel.

As I escorted our client out the door I explained my puzzlement about the cause of those intestinal wounds. What could her indoor cat have gotten into?
Next week: dental hygiene at fault
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Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at Post pet behavioral or physical questions on or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.