Diagnosis: Coyote Attack
Ruby was mostly an indoor cat. On occasion, however, her owner Rita would let her outside into the backyard. Because the yard backed up to open cattle grazing space, Ruby was only allowed outside during the day and with human supervision – everything was done to make it as safe an experience as possible. In the Bay Area, open space means the possibility of coyotes and caution should always be exercised when it comes to smaller pets.
At almost two years old this beautiful tiger stripe tabby cat loved going outside with the family's two golden retrievers Harley and Biscuit. So when Rita's son Connor took the dogs outside to go to the bathroom around 1:30pm on a Monday afternoon, they thought nothing of allowing Ruby out with them. After all, they had never seen coyotes out during the afternoon and there were the two dogs and Connor to protect Ruby. Rita stayed inside but she had a clear view of the backyard through a large window. What she saw happen next was terrifying.
Shortly after going outside Ruby jumped on top of the fence that separated the backyard from the open space. She then jumped down onto the opposite side. Within less than 60 seconds a coyote pounced and brutally grabbed Ruby in its mouth. Biscuit and Harley started going wild, barking and running towards the fence; they knew Ruby was not safe. Connor started shouting and screaming at the coyote and immediately ran out from the back yard and towards the open space on the other side of the fence. He stopped about two feet from the coyote who continued to boldly stand there with Ruby in his mouth. He didn't want to get closer in case the coyote decided to run off with Ruby or turn and attack Conor. Watching helplessly from inside; Rita could not believe this was happening. In the meantime, Ruby showed her fighting spirit by hissing and struggling in the coyote's grip.
Rita ran outside and joined Connor. Connor ran straight towards the coyote shouting. Finally the coyote dropped Ruby who ran off to the side in a drainage ditch. Rita grabbed Ruby and immediately called BRVC, exclaiming she had an emergency. Reception Shift Lead Liza took the call and told Rita to come down right away – BRVC would be ready to help Ruby. Liza informed Treatment a cat was coming down who had been attacked by a coyote and was bleeding from the head. The emergency station was prepped and technicians went outside to await Rita and Ruby's arrival. When she drove up they whisked Ruby from the car and rushed her straight to the back where Dr. Leanne Taylor was ready to examine and treat the injured kitty. Regarding her experience arriving at BRVC with Ruby, Rita said, "When they came out to the car and ran inside with Ruby I was so impressed with the response from the vet techs. Dr. Taylor was so calm and sure. It made me feel better even though it was the most horrible day of my life – knowing Ruby was in such good hands."
When a traumatic injury arrives the first step is to check vital signs. Dr. Taylor found that Ruby's heart rate, breathing, and pupil sign were all good. Her gums were pink and her mentation was good for going through such a traumatic experience. Ruby had blood on her head and in her mouth and she was not using her right front leg. She had a deep laceration in her ear and bruising on her cheek. After determining that her vitals were stable pain medication was administered and blood work and x-rays were performed. The blood work revealed hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and slightly elevated liver values – this is expected after stress and trauma. The x-rays showed a dislocated elbow on her right front leg, but no fractures. Ruby also had bruises on her chest/neck area and subcutaneous emphysema in the chest. Dr. Taylor was happy to note that there was no pneumothorax present. Subcutaneous emphysema is pockets of air between the tissues underneath the skin – in Ruby's case this type of injury would eventually dissipate and heal on its own. Pneumothorax is much more serious - this is when air is caught between the lungs and the chest wall. This causes the lungs to collapse, restricting the ability to breath and can lead to death. Luckily this was not present in Ruby!
Ruby stayed overnight in Patient Care so she could be monitored for neurological signs due to her head wound and trauma. Dr. Taylor examined her the next day and performed recheck x-rays. Ruby's bruising was already slightly improved and she was doing well enough to move forward with her treatment. She was put under anesthesia in order for her elbow to be put back in place and to allow Dr. Taylor to perform a deeper cleaning on her ear laceration. She was also able to more thoroughly examine Ruby's mouth wounds while the cat was under anesthesia. She had a cut on her tongue and a fractured molar that needed to be removed.
While Ruby had some significant injuries she was doing well enough to go home the day of her procedure. She was truly one lucky kitty! She was also lucky because Rita had had the foresight to have Ruby vaccinated with Rabies since she sometimes ventured outside. Veterinarians are legally required to file a bite report with the county when it has been verified that the pet they are treating has been bitten by a wild animal. The county requires all pets bitten by a wild animal to be quarantined. Because Ruby was immunized she only had to be quarantined for one month and she was allowed to be quarantined in her own home. Unvaccinated pets must be quarantined for at least six months and have to be boarded elsewhere at the owner's expense. This is incredibly difficult on all involved. All cats that go outside should be vaccinated for Rabies for this very reason!
Animal Control Officers visited Ruby at her home once a week for four weeks. In that time Ruby continued to heal. She is almost completely back to normal although her one ear hangs a little lower and her elbow is still bothering her. Leg injuries take some time to heal completely. Her quarantine is now officially over but that doesn't mean Ruby will be going outside anytime soon. In fact, according to Rita, Ruby is a strictly indoor cat from now on. She doesn't ever want to take that chance again. But Ruby probably doesn't mind too much – she is being spoiled non-stop by her grateful and loving family!