Sunday, June 20, 2010

Abscess - No fun for Dogs or Cats

Have you experienced an abscess on your cat or dog?  If you have, then you know that they can kind of sneak up on you.  One day "Lucky" is playing and energetic and the next he's lethargic, lame, and seems almost depressed.  When you start running your hand over his body you might find a area that is raised and warm; and when touched your pet will pull away or look at you funny like he's saying "hey, that hurts!"

One of the possible reasons for the swelling is an abscess - a pocket of pus that has built up in defense of bacteria from a puncture wound, foreign material, insect bite, or parasite under the skin.  As a defense mechanism your animal's body produces lots of white blood cells to fight the bacteria.  As the white blood cells die off the pus forms.  Eventually the skin becomes thin and ruptures allowing the pus to disperse and healing to start in the area.  But that doesn't always happen.  The abscess can get large and very painful and will need treatment from a veterinarian.

Cats are especially prone to abscesses.  During a cat fight if a deep scratch or bite wound is inflicted on your cat the outside of the wound will tend to form a scab quickly.  Unfortunately, the scab seals in the bacteria and sets up the perfect conditions for an abscess.

Abscesses need to be drained in order to heal.  A trip to the veterinarian is the safest for a couple reasons.  First, the abscess can be evaluated to determine the extent of the infection and whether surgery is necessary to remove dead tissue and place multiple drains to allow the wound to heal.  Secondly, antibiotics will most likely be necessary to get rid of the bacterial infection.  Once the abscess is drained your pet will start feeling better very quickly since the pressure has been relieved and the infection cleaned out.  To keep "Lucky" from scratching or licking the area an Elizabethan collar may be required, depending on the location of the wound.

If your cat has been in a fight, examine him thoroughly from head to toe to locate any puncture wounds or deep scratches as these usually require antibiotics from your veterinarian to alleviate possible infection.  At home you will be instructed to clean the wounds and watch for any signs of infection. Place warm compresses on these areas 10-15 minutes 3-4 times per day to decrease the chances of an abscess forming.  The compresses increase blood flow to the area which increases the immune response.  If an abscess is immediately adjacent to the eye, the anus, or the genitals, or inside the ear don't try to treat at home.  Get your pet to the veterinary hospital right away.

The moral of the story...a drained abscess equals relief.

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