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"Ziggy" the crunchy kitten

When my colleague Geraldine Young informed me that I was to perform a follow up examination on a "crunchy" kitten that had sustained its injuries from a dog I feared the worst. After allowing me to peruse the many stainless steel orthopaedic implants at my disposal to reconstruct this unfortunate patient I was informed that indeed no bones had been broken. Instead the peculiar "crunching" sensation with "Ziggy", only 10 weeks old, which was all too evident was coming from her skin!
On stroking "Ziggy" along her back a rather weird sound and sensation became apparent. The noise and touch was similar to that of scrunching a piece of dry brown wrapping paper. Despite these bizarre clinical findings "Ziggy" remained surprisingly bright and perky. This clinical finding is typical of what we call "subcutaneous emphysema" or air trapped under the skin. The exact cause of this problem was unclear but had been noticed by her owner after the family dog had been playing with "Ziggy", somewhat over enthusiastically, in her mouth!

There were 2 possible explanations.

The bacteria from the dog's mouth had pierced her coat and started to produce gas
which then was trapped under her skin. A major complication of penetrating injuries is infection with abscess formation. The most innocuous looking wound can develop into a much more serious condition by providing certain bacteria the opportunity to flourish in an environment which keeps them moist, warm and full of nutrients.

Alternatively:
The respiratory tract had become damaged (punctured lung) and air was escaping and finding its way under the skin. If this injury is very small the "puncture" will eventually seal itself and the air will be reabsorbed. Treatment is aimed primarily at keeping infection at bay until the situation is resolved.

Fortunately for "Ziggy" that is exactly what happened. Concerned readers will be pleased to know that "Ziggy" has found a new home in Stoney Stanton where there are no over exuberant playmates. No doubt when "Ziggy" is older she will be quite capable of doing some scrunching of her own!

Terry Dunne BVMS, Cert SAO, MRCVS

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