How to Treat Cat Abscesses

An illustration showing the causes and symptoms of abscesses in cats

Abscesses are infected pockets of pus that occur as a result of the body's reaction to an infection. Pus is a thick, whitish or yellowish fluid filled with germs and white blood cells. Cats frequently get abscesses in their mouths, on their skin, or anyplace else on their body. Dental, bite wound, and internal abscesses are three frequent abscesses to be aware of while diagnosing an abscess.

Some abscesses go overlooked by cat owners until they rupture or cause other dangerous symptoms. Knowing what to look for and how to treat an abscess in a cat is crucial to keeping them happy and healthy.

What is an Abscess?

An abscess is a pus-filled pocket that is infected and contains bacteria, white blood cells, and other substances. They develop as the body's reaction to an infection. Abscesses can be found all over a cat's body and might develop to enormous proportions or remain modest. Some abscesses can get so enormous that they rupture, allowing the pus to flow out.

Signs of an Abscess in a Cat

  • Localized swelling
  • Oozing from a swelling
  • Foul smell
  • Bad breath
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Fever

Abscesses in cats normally manifest as a swelling beneath the skin, but they can also hide inside the body or under the gums in the mouth. Abscesses resemble a tumor or lump as a skin swelling, however they might emerge more abruptly. If the swelling spreads too far, the skin may rupture and pus may ooze out. The leaky diseased region emits a foul odor as a result.

A cat with a mouth abscess may have particularly foul breath, refuse to eat, and become sluggish. Because abscesses inside the body are suggestive of infection, they can cause tiredness and a reduction in appetite. A cat with a systemic illness will feel sick and develop a fever.

Causes of Cat Abscesses

Abscesses in cats most commonly occur in the mouth and under the skin, but they can occur practically anywhere in or on a cat. Abscesses are produced by bacteria such as E. coli, some Streptococcus species, Pseudomonas, Mycoplasma, Pasteurella multocida, Corynebacterium, Actinomyces, Nocardia, Bartonella, Bacteroides, Clostridium, and Fusobacterium, and are typically identified by where they arise in the body.

  • Dental abscesses: Characterized by being inside the mouth, dental abscesses are found around diseased teeth. When bacteria builds up on the surface of a tooth, the gums become inflamed which leads to gingivitis. If this bacteria doesn't get removed from tooth brushing or professional dental cleaning, it continues to stick to the tooth, gathers saliva and food debris, and forms plaque and calculus. This can cause abscesses under the gumline. If that bacteria also gets into the root canal of a broken or diseased tooth, such as one with a resorptive lesion, it can cause a tooth root abscess. Dental abscesses are common in cats but may be .
  • Bite wound abscesses: In order for a cat to develop a bite wound abscess, it needs to be bitten by another animal. This is why bite wound abscesses are most common in cats that spend time outdoors. When a cat gets bit, bacteria enter the wound and an abscess begins to form. These are seen under the skin of cats as lumps and usually aren't noticed by the cat owner until they rupture and begin to ooze pus. These abscesses may feel hot to the touch as well as cause skin inflammation.
  • Internal abscesses: Unable to be seen from the outside of a cat's body, internal abscesses occur on the internal organs from inflammation, disease, and foreign objects. These are far less common than bite wounds and dental abscesses in cats but still occur.

Diagnosing Cat Abscesses

If a veterinarian detects a skin abscess on a cat as a result of a bite wound or other injury, they may use a needle with a syringe attached to check what's within. If it's an abscess, the pus will be drained, but not if it's a tumor. These abscesses are usually straightforward to identify without a lot of testing.

A veterinarian will examine a cat's mouth for indications of pus if a dental abscess is suspected, but sedation and X-rays will be required to completely evaluate the mouth. X-rays will reveal abscesses, and dental probes will be used to inspect the teeth.

Ultrasound may help a veterinarian diagnose an internal abscess, but imaging of the pus-filled pocket may need to be done in the operating room. Internal abscesses are usually discovered by surgery.

Sometimes bacterial cultures will be performed in order to diagnose the specific type of bacteria causing the abscess. This will aid the veterinarian in treating the abscess.

Treatment of Cat Abscesses

The abscess will be treated with antibiotics and other drugs. For tooth root abscesses, tooth extractions and comprehensive teeth cleaning may be required. Lancing skin abscesses to enable the infection to drain or removing the abscess if it is inside may need surgery.

How to Prevent Cat Abscesses

Regular dental care is key to helping prevent dental abscesses from forming. Some cats have more problems than others with dental disease but keeping their teeth clean can help prevent abscesses.

Bite wound abscesses can be avoided by keeping cats inside. Of course, this isn't always feasible, but a cat can't obtain a bite wound unless another animal is around, so it's the easiest method to avoid them.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.

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