Author: Denise Morris, Veterinary Nurse and Practice Manager at Kitten to Cat Veterinary Clinic
Whether it is reuniting lost cats with their owners or finding a new home for stray kittens and cats there is no better feeling than the joy it brings with each success story. It all started with our infamous little Betsy almost three years ago as we opened. The cat who was microchipped but we could not trace her owners, despite all the investigative efforts. Since then there have been two litters of little fur babies and a few more stories but Penguins story is a little more complicated than the rest……….
A little black and white bundle of fur was brought into us through a close friend of the surgery. She had been hanging around the basement of a local hospital and one member of staff in particular was rather worried about the little one and how she was living. One of the ladies friends happened to be one of our regular visitors to the clinic and suggested that we could check her for a microchip, and so her story began.
Her first check over revealed that we had a little girl with no microchip. Unfortunately she was underweight and her body condition made it difficult to try and give her an approximate age. This wasn’t the only unusual thing about our little furry friend. She also appeared to have a problem with her hind legs in that they were not completely separated (see diagram below). This physical abnormality meant that her ability to walk, run and jump was slightly impaired and that is how she came by her name!
It was thought that Penguin’s abnormality could be congenital or happened as a result of an early injury. She had the best little nature in the world and was completely ravenous when first arriving with us. We administered worm and flea treatment and made the decision to wait and see if anyone came forward as her owner. Seven days passed and nobody had enquired after her.
The problem with her hind legs meant that her muscles were not being used and therefore not developing well. As time went on she put on weight and the decision was made to take her to surgery giving her full use of those legs. As we had no idea how old she was or what had happened to her in the past we took a sample of blood to check the function of her liver and kidneys before going ahead with the surgery. She was the most cooperative little patient and never complained at anything. These tests revealed that her little kidneys were not functioning as good as they should be at this point and further investigation was required.
For the surgery we put a little intravenous catheter in and placed her on intravenous fluids to help support her kidneys through the general anaesthetic. When anaesthetised all her fur around the surgical area had to be removed. This revealed a large area of scar tissue which lead us to believe that this physical abnormality was as the result of burns. We were all devastated to discover that little penguin had gone through so much. It was amazing that she had recovered from such horrific injuries with such a beautiful personality. This fact also complicated the surgery somewhat in that making an incision to release the tension left a large open wound that could not be closed with skin available in that area. Nikki had to surgically excise a flap of skin from her chest, twist it round and stitch it in between her legs as a graft (as shown in the photo below).
Before the surgery started Penguin unable to extend hind legs down due to tension
3 hours later – Penguin gets full extension of back legs and wound shows the extent of the area of skin taken from the chest area
First night after the surgery Penguin came home with me for the weekend so we could keep a really close eye on her. She was confined to a small kennel to prevent much movement. Recovery from this procedure was extensive. There is always a risk with skin graft that the graft will not take to the tissue below and may die off. She had two drains placed in the wound to prevent any fluid build up and these required cleaning twice daily. As with before the procedure she was the perfect patient, allowing us to clean those wound without any fuss and never complaining at all. The first time we had her out walking following the procedure she just stretched and stretched out each back leg as she walked, it was amazing to watch!
1st night after surgery
Penguin walking with free legs!!!
Full recovery from this procedure took 4 months. The wounds healed beautifully in almost every part of the surgical site, although there were a couple of areas that the little one managed to reach (even with an elizabethian collar on!). Unfortunately as she licked at these areas she made them very red and painful so we had to construct a larger collar and keep that on until these areas healed one hundred percent.
Penguin is now living at home with me, possibly temporarily, possibly permanently depending on how relationships form between my own two furry friends. Penguin meets Bumble and Yuki to follow………..
Penguin Happy in Her New Home