Bruising on pets may be hard to see.

Black_cat_2 Can you see all the bruises on this cat?  What, you can’t?  I guarantee you that they are there.  This cat was rescued from a situation where a big dog was chewing it and a person (I use the term loosely) was hitting it with a stick.  There are no broken bones, no obvious wounds, no apparent bleeding.  Circulation is good, so probably no internal bleeding.  Lungs sound okay with the stethoscope.  He must be un-injured, then, right?  Wrong.   He didn’t want to eat, he didn’t want to move.  That is, he wouldn’t eat until we gave him some pain control medication.  I wouldn’t call him perky at that point, but he did get up and eat.  After three days of rest (and pain medication) he was behaving pretty normally.

Bruise_belly_2 We are accustomed to seeing discoloration when we think of a bruise.  A visible bruise means that the tissue has been damaged enough by blunt trauma that blood vessels are leaking blood into the tissue.  This produces the lovely colors.  On a pet, the skin is usually concealed by the fur, so you just don’t see that very often, even when it is there.  Sometimes the hairless belly of a dog will show a purple spot, but if the pet has a dense coat, you’d have to shave them to find the bruises.

As a teenager, one of my more foolish decisions resulted in a motorcycle crash that sent me rolling quite a ways across the pavement.  Fortunately, I did not collide with a vehicle, and I was wearing new Levis, leather jacket, boots, gloves and helmet.  I did not have any visible bruises or scrapes, but my whole body felt like one big "charley-horse".  I felt like someone had beaten me like a xylophone from one end to the other.  I was stiff and sore and hurt everytime I moved for several days, this despite having no visible injuries.

Last week I was presented with a little dog who had been bitten in the head by a big dog.  His owners couldn’t understand why he was acting so sadly. He just had this small wound on top of his head.  Of course, that wound was produced by the big dog’s fang punching through the scalp while the whole head was getting crunched between the jaws.  This dog did not have a lot of visible injuries, but he had received the equivalent of having your head smashed in a car door while somebody stabs your scalp with a screwdriver.  Even with pain medication, you are going to be pretty sore for a while.

Sometimes we have to use a little intuition, combined with our history, combined with my usual question, "If this were me, would I be hurting?"

5 thoughts on “Bruising on pets may be hard to see.

  1. Sheila says:

    I hope this bruised cat will be placed in a home where the perpetrators of his injuries will not have opportunity to do this again?

  2. Diana Guerrero says:

    Yikes, what a horrible story. Since I live in a rural area the opinion and practices for animal care are vast.

    Some people don’t care about pain management and owner activities here mirror those that were wide spread from about 20-30 years ago.

    Recently, I had a discussion with a client concerning trends within veterinary centers. I insisted she take her pet in when I noticed some abnormalities (I am a behavior consultant). The assistant and intern resisted exploring the issue. Only when the veteran vet returned from vacation was the issue addressed.

    In a few days the animal had dropped more than 10% of his body weight. My client suspected that the majority of pet owners wait too long to get their pets in.

    A hypothesis I began to ponder, especially when I offered to look in on a cat reported to be “off her food.” For several weeks I had told the owner to get her into the vet. When I went over to see her, I found an emaciated skeleton.

    So my question to you (although not directly related to this post) is, what percentage of people wait too long to bring their pets in for care?

    For anyone else reading, the cat’s liver began shutting down…she is on the road to recovery now and doing well.

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