Riley the 18 month old Collie cross

Riley lives with three cats, and there’s continual low grade conflict. It’s nothing serious, and up until now, nobody has every been injured. It’s more that they tend to avoid each other, where possible. They certainly don’t cuddle up to each other, sleeping in the same bed or choosing to spend time close together. This doesn’t seem to faze Riley: she’s a contented, happy pet dog who enjoys life.

The most challenging house-sharing time is at dinner: the three cats are fed in one section of the kitchen, and Riley is fed in another. If Cathy isn’t careful to watch out, Riley will sneak over and scoff the cats’ food too. Cat food tends to be tasty, high protein rations compared to most dog foods, so it’s not surprising that dogs enjoy eating it so much. It wouldn’t do Riley any harm, but she’d get fat if she was allowed to eat the cats’ food every day, and in any case, the cats need their own food. Cathy’s system usually works well, with dog and cats staying in their own sections of the kitchen at dinner time.

The three cats can be irregular time keepers: they aren’t always around at feeding time. Like most moggies, they live independent lives, coming and going as they please. Cathy feeds all the animals at the same time every morning and evening, and if one of the cats isn’t around, she picks up one of the three cat bowls and leaves it on the kitchen counter. Then later on, when the missing cat appears, she puts the dish back on the floor so that they can tuck in.

Last week, one morning, that’s exactly what happened. One red, heart-shaped, cat bowl was left on the kitchen counter, because Daisy the cat wasn’t around.  Cathy headed off to drop the children somewhere and to take Riley for a walk. When they all came back mid-morning, Riley had a drink of water then went to her bed for a rest at one end of the kitchen. Cathy was busy elsewhere in the house and there was still no sign of Daisy.

the accident

There was no noise, no crash and no yelping. But when Cathy came into the kitchen half an hour later, at eleven o’clock, there was a broken ceramic cat bowl on the floor, and there were splashes of blood everywhere.  It wasn’t difficult to work out what had happened: Riley must have jumped up onto the kitchen counter and tucked into the cat’s food. In the process, she had knocked the ceramic bowl off the counter onto the floor, where it broke into two big pieces. She must have then jumped down, and she had managed to land on one of the broken edges. She had suffered a 4cm wide laceration across her lower left hindleg. 

Surprisingly, after the initial bleeding that had splattered the kitchen floor, Riley wasn’t bleeding any more. Her long fur over that area was covering the cut, and it didn’t look too bad at all. Cathy cleaned it, and Riley seemed very well. She was walking around happily enough. It was the weekend, and Cathy didn’t feel it was enough of an emergency to need to go to the emergency vet. 

However, by Monday, Riley was limping, and it was difficult to see through the fur to work out what was happening with the cut. Cathy brought her to see me, in case anything else needed to be done.

a trip to the vet was needed

The first thing I did was to use electric clippers to remove all the fur from around the edge of the cut to make it easier to see it and to keep it clean. It was a wide laceration, but it was shallow. Only the skin had been cut: the tendons beneath had been spared. In the two days since it had happened, the cut had already started to heal, with fleshy, reddish so-called granulation tissue beginning to fill the gap between the skin edges. At this stage, there was no point in suturing the cut together: I applied a dressing, and that will need to be replaced twice a week for two or three weeks. By the end of that time, if all goes to plan, the cut will have fully healed.

There are always possible complications: if dogs lick healing cuts, they can delay healing by many weeks. Hopefully, the dressing will stop Riley from getting at it, but sometimes an Elizabethan (lampshade or cone) collar is needed to make sure that a dog can’t damage a wound by licking or nibbling it.

I talked with Cathy about what had happened. It seemed that this was not the first time that Riley had been counter-surfing. On two previous occasions, when Cathy had entered the room, she had found Riley on the kitchen table or counter, standing there, looking startled. Cathy had thought that these episodes had been one-offs, but she’s now beginning to wonder. How many times had morsels of food mysteriously gone missing? Did Riley make a habit of jumping up onto counters when no-one was around?

From now on, measures will need to be taken to stop it happening again. In Cathy’s household, food will never again be left out on view (and within sniffing range). Riley’s hungry appetite and impressive ability to jump can no longer be ignored.


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