This is by far the most common injury that we see in cats. As the title suggests, abscesses form in cats as a result of fights with other cats. Initially, the wounds that cause them are usually rather small – especially from bites or possibly from puncture wounds made with the claws.
Often these small wounds go unnoticed, or you might figure that they're small and not painful, so you don't do anything about them. Even if it's not a painful wound initially, that's a big mistake! Cat bites carry LOTS of bacteria into the wound. Treatment with antibiotics at this early stage can prevent formation of an abscess.
But without appropriate treatment, these bacteria will multiply. Within a few days, significant amounts of pus are produced. By this time the original puncture wound has closed over, so with nowhere to go, the pus builds up in the area beneath the wound. It becomes swollen, painful and the toxins produced by the bacteria will destroy the surrounding tissues (fat, muscle and skin). The infection may also cause your cat to run a high temperature, go off its food and become quite ill. At this stage, anaesthesia (also read Pre-anaesthetic blood test) and surgery is often the only successful form of treatment. The pus must be drained away and infected tissues removed. Often a rubber tube will be placed in the wound to allow extra pus and fluids to escape over the next few days. Antibiotics will be used to clean up the remaining infection and analgesics given for the pain.
How can abscesses be prevented?
- Bring your cat in for treatment as soon as you notice a puncture wound – or if you see them in a fight with another cat. A consultation fee and a course of antibiotics (total less than $100) can prevent a lot of anguish for your cat (and a bill that could be well over $300!).
- (Prices approximate in August 2011)
- Keep your cat confined indoors, particularly at night. Or invest in one of the outdoor cat runs that can be erected in your yard (such as Secureakat or Catmax.
- Have your cat desexed. This is particularly important for male (tom) cats, who are more territorial and get into a lot of fights, especially in the breeding season – which is July to March (but sometimes longer).
- Cat fights are also a major source of infection with viral diseases such as FIV (Feline Aids) so preventing cat fights is important for this reason too.