My Cat Got Spayed and the Wound Is Healing Weird. Help?


Dr. Barchas,

Our female cat that got fixed last week. The incision looks a little lumpy/uneven. It has been one week. The cat has an e-collar still, and we have sprayed her incision, so she is not licking.

However, about one-eighth to one-fourth of an inch of the incision is not healing together. There is a gap between the two edges of skin. It does not look infected, and there is no discharge. I did call the clinic and they have not called back yet.

Do you have any recommendations? We will be cleaning the site, applying Neosporin, and will probably take her in tomorrow or the next day. Is there something that would be good to increase the healing, or will she need dissolvable stitches or something?

Spaying sounds so simple. You take your cat to the vet, and she comes home later that night “fixed” — even though she didn’t know she was broken. Most experienced vets can spay a cat in just a few minutes. But that’s not because it’s easy. It’s because most experienced vets have spayed thousands of cats and they’re really good at it.

Spaying is a major surgery. As it is most commonly performed, the surgeon first incises the skin and then the fatty subcutaneous tissue (which all cats have, regardless of body weight) beneath the skin. Next, the surgeon incises the tough connective tissue which underlies the subcutaneous tissue. This allows access to the abdominal cavity.

The surgeon next identifies the uterus and ovaries. The blood vessels supplying these structures are tied off to prevent hemorrhage, and the reproductive tissues are removed. The final steps involve suturing each of the three layers — the connective tissue, the subcutaneous tissue, and the skin — that were initially incised.

It is normal for spay incisions to appear lumpy as they are healing. The suture material used to close the connective tissue and subcutaneous tissue may lead to palpable or visible bumps, especially where knots have been tied. The sutured tissues themselves sometimes bunch up slightly during surgery. This is normal and generally is nothing to worry about.

It is not exactly normal for the skin to come apart after surgery. However, when it does it usually represents a very minor complication. It is not uncommon for a small gap to develop in the skin of a healing spay incision. As long as there is no discharge and the surrounding skin is not discolored or malodorous, a small gap will likely heal without intervention. Remember that the deeper layers have also been sutured (most often using dissolvable suture material), which will help to hold the incision together.

The reader who submitted the question probably does not have much to worry about. However, I strongly agree with her decision to have the vet who performed the surgery check the incision. I am optimistic about this situation, but the only way to know for sure is to have the site checked by a professional.

I do not recommend applying any product, especially Neosporin, to a healing incision unless it was prescribed by a vet. Neosporin contains an ingredient, polymyxin B, which has been linked to severe adverse reactions when used topically on the eyes of cats. A definitive causal relationship has not been established, and I am not aware of any reports of severe events following application of Neosporin to the skin. However, if the incision is not infected, then Neosporin will not be of significant use. If it is infected, then something stronger (such as an oral antibiotic) will be necessary.

Leave the incision alone and have the vet look at it as soon as possible.

Got a question for Dr. Barchas? Ask our vet in the comments below and you might be featured in an upcoming column. (Note that if you have an emergency situation, please see your own vet immediately!)

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