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Trigger's Skin Graft

Trigger, a young, male domestic short haired cat, was brought in to see one of our vets with multiple wounds over both back legs. The cause of the wounds was unknown but a road traffic accident or a dog attack was considered most likely. Both ankle (hock) joints had sustained some ligament damage but the main wounds were to his left hind limb.

Some wounds, once assessed, can be sutured & closed immediately. However, other wounds can prove more problematic: the full extent of the tissue damage does not become apparent until later in the recovery period. Frequently, the blood supply to the injured skin is damaged by crushing or tearing from the underlying connective tissue. In this situation, the skin can appear normal for 3-4 days before it becomes obvious that the skin is dead (necrotic).

In Trigger’s case, a flap of skin over his left hock, which initially appeared viable, peeled (sloughed) away over several days, leaving an elliptical skin deficit of 4cm x 3cm exposing tendons and bone (highlighted in blue in the photograph to the right).  

Skin is in short supply around the feet so closing a sizable wound on the limbs can be a challenge. Skin grafts and flaps are often used to shorten healing times. For Trigger, we used a simple technique using circular punch grafts. After appropriate open wound management (see below), nine punch skin grafts were taken from the skin covering his flank and embedded within the open wound over his hock. Of these nine grafts, seven survived which then fairly rapidly lead to wound healing. Trigger had a few other wounds and injuries which also healed over the course of five weeks.

One interesting aspect about Trigger’s initial wound treatment was our use of medical grade Manuka honey. This has been shown to promote effective wound healing and is a natural antibacterial agent. 

Trigger's left foot immediately after surgery

Trigger's left foot 5 days after surgery

Trigger's left foot 2 weeks after surgery


Although Trigger’s treatment was relatively simple and performed under sedation, the cost of repeat sedation and dressing changes twice weekly soon added up. Wounds can be more costly to manage than a broken bone and we strongly recommend good pet insurance to all our clients.

Finally, thanks to Tigger's owners for agreeing to share his story with us.

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