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Abscesses are painful localized wounds that cats can develop after being punctured or scratched by other cats, animals, or objects. The abscess forms when bacteria enter deep tissue and establish an infection. With time, the infection continues to grow, increases in pressure, and erodes the overlying skin. Eventually, the skin may open and release pus and infected material.
Caring for your pet's abscess is important because if it is not kept clean and treated with the right medication, the infection can spread to other parts of the body, including the organs.
An abscess will look like an open sore or a painful swelling on your cat's skin. Often, the fur at the site is missing or matted. The wound itself may or may not be oozing foul-smelling pus, which in some cases may include blood. You may not always be able to see the abscess from a normal distance, but you will be able to see it (and smell it) if you get close enough to it.
If you feel a compressible swelling on your cat's body, but you don't see any signs of a tooth mark, then this is the abscess before it ruptures. During this stage of the infection, you may notice you cat acting lethargic and running a fever.
If you discover your cat has an abscess, then the first thing to do is schedule an appointment for her to be evaluated by her veterinarian. Then, until you can see the vet, you should do the following:
After performing these steps, the wound should be clean and you should have a better idea of just how bad the abscess is.
When you arrive at the veterinarian with your cat, the vet will typically perform a thorough evaluation of the abscess and your cat's overall health. If the abscess is open and draining, then your veterinarian vet may be able to treat your cat without sedation. But, if the abscess hasn't opened yet, then your veterinarian may have to administer sedation to your pet and lance the abscess. Samples of the pus will be collected and sent to the lab so your veterinarian will be more informed as to which antibiotics will work best against the infection.
In some cases, a drain may need to be inserted by the vet to keep the abscess open and draining. It will be important to keep the drain as clean as possible. The vet usually will remove the drain after three days.
Once your cat returns home, keep her confined while she heals. Ideally, you will want to keep her somewhere with easy-to-clean floors and walls, like a bathroom, laundry room, or mud room. Make sure the room is warm and dry and provide your cat with everything she needs to recover comfortably, like a litter box, soft blankets, food, and fresh water.
Keep the wound clean by wiping it with a clean cloth soaked in warm water. Keep wiping the site until you remove all the visible pus.
Be sure to tell your veterinarian about any medications or supplements your cat is currently taking so your veterinarian may make the best treatment decision for your pet's unique case and help reduce the risk of a potential drug interaction.
Dr. Evan Ware is a veterinary practitioner in Phoenix, Arizona. He received both his undergraduate degree in microbiology and his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from The Ohio State University.
Dr. Ware is currently the Medical Director of University Animal Hospital (VCA) and is also the owner of two other hospitals, including Laveen Veterinary Center and Phoenix Veterinary Center. His areas of expertise include orthopedic medicine and surgery, veterinary oncology and chemotherapy, and general and advanced soft-tissue surgery.
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