Feline Abscesses

An abscess is the formation of an accumulation of infectious material contained in a thick, yellow fluid.

An abscess that has fully formed feels like a “water-filled balloon". The surrounding area is often very swollen and painful and may feel hot to the touch.

Although abscesses can occur from many different sources and virtually any type of wound or infection can result in an abscess, they are often caused by bacterial contamination of a puncture wound, such as a scratch or bite wound.

Animals which fight frequently are prone to developing abscesses.

The skin over this type wound heals quickly on the outside, which encloses the bacteria pushed into by the puncture. Since the bacteria can’t get out, an infection begins to form. As the infection progresses, "pus" forms in the area, forming the typical thick, yellow fluid. As the amount of pus increases, the abscess enlarges and becomes more painful.

Eventually an abscess may reach the point where it is large enough to rupture and discharge the pus through a wound in the skin surface.

If medical intervention is not sought to control the infection and completely drain and flush the wound properly, the skin opening may soon heal over and the process will start all over again.

If an abscess is not properly drained, the bacterial infection can spread in the surrounding tissues and eventually spread to the entire body through the blood stream. This type of blood poisoning may threaten the life of your cat.

Symptoms Of An Abscess:

Signs of blood poisoning from an abscess include:

  • depression,
  • dehydration,
  • fever,
  • and vomiting.

Diagnosis Of An Abscess:

Diagnosis of an abscess resulting from an infected wound is usually fairly straight forward and is based on physical examination, clinical signs, and history.

Often the abscess itself is easily located due to the intense swelling and pain which accompany it.

If the abscess has already ruptured and drained, pus may be visible on the skin and hair coat surrounding the wound.

Your cat's veterinarian may need to perform additional diagnostic tests, such as a routine blood screen to determine your cat's overall physical condition.

Treatment Of An Abscess:

Treatment usually involves drainage of the infection and thorough flushing of the wound. Sedation or anesthesia may be required.

The wound must then be kept open, so that it will heal from the inside out.

Antibiotics will be necessary to treat the source of the infection and kill the bacteria causing the infection.

If your cat is dehydrated, fluid therapy may be necessary to replace the body fluids your cat has lost. Dehydration often occurs with abscesses because as the infection spreads through the blood stream and the fever rises, your cat may stop eating and drinking normally. This results in inadequate fluid intake.

In addition, if your cat vomits due to the blood poisoning from the abscess, the act of vomiting also causes your cat to lose bodily fluids through the vomitus. Fluid therapy helps replace these fluid deficits and return your cat's hydration status to normal.

Preventing Abscesses:

Prevention of abscess formation includes prompt examination of possible puncture wounds and use of appropriate antibiotic therapy.

Neutering male dogs and cats may help reduce fighting which is a major cause of wounds that can lead to abscesses.

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