Porcupine quills in skin


The important thing to remember about a porcupine quill in the skin is to remove the whole thing. Grasp the quill with a pair of pliers near the point where it disappears into the skin, then, with a quick tug, pull it out. If the quill breaks off as you try to remove it or if some of the quills have broken off before you had a chance to try to remove them, you may need a veterinarian’s help. Do not ignore pieces of quill you cannot pull from the skin. They can migrate long distances (sometimes into bone or internal organs), carrying sources of infection with them. And remember to check for quills inside the mouth as well as in the body surface.


Owners usually become aware of insect bites or stings long after they have happened. Usually a large swelling of the muzzle tissue or a foot is noticed with no particular evidence of pain. Other times, but rarely in cats, hives (bumps in the skin) appear. These are allergic reactions to the bite or sting. If there is no fever and if the cat acts normally (even though abnormal in appearance), no treatment is usually necessary, but pull out the stinger if you see it. Swelling should go away within forty-eight hours.

With spider bites, the swelling may last for days or weeks and may sometimes be accompanied by death and sloughing off of tissue at the site of the bite. If you catch the bite early; if your cat receives multiple stings from bees, wasps, or hornets; or if the signs are progressing to those of severe allergic reaction, anaphylaxis, (e.g., difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, urination followed by shock and collapse), consult a veterinarian.

Emergency supportive care may be needed, and various drugs including corticosteroids may be administered to prevent signs or further progression of signs that are already apparent.



Burns may be thermal, chemical, or electrical (electric shock). The severity of thermal (heat) burns in cats may be underestimated because the appearance of burns in cats differs considerably from those in humans.

The type of blister characteristic of superficial burns in humans may not form in the burned skin of a cat. In a superficial burn, the hair remains firmly attached. If you pull on the hair in the area of a burn and it comes out easily, the burn is deeper and more serious.

Immediate treatment of thermal burns consists of applying cold water or ice compresses for twenty minutes. The affected area should then be washed with povidone-iodine or chlorhexidine disinfectant. Neomycin- polymixin B-bacitracin cream can then be applied topically if the burn is minor. Deep burns or burns covering large areas need emergency veterinary care. Because of the difficulty in evaluating the severity of burns in cat’s skin immediately after their occurrence, it is a good idea to have all burns examined by a veterinarian within twenty-four hours.


Electrical burns occur often in kittens who chew on electric cords.

These burns cause severe damage to the skin of the mouth and may result in pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs). Cats sustaining such burns should be thoroughly examined by a veterinarian as soon as you become aware of the injury. If difficulty breathing or coughing occurs, pulmonary edema may be present. In severe cases the tongue and gums may look bluish. If you find your cat unconscious and not breathing after electric shock, administer artificial respiration once you have carefully and safely removed the cat from the electrical source. Even if general signs do not develop after electric shock, mouth tissue damaged by the burn often dies and sloughs off several days later and needs veterinary attention. Electrical burns are characteristically cold, bloodless, pale yellow, and painless.


For information on chemical burns, see Acids and Alkali in the chart of common household poisons.