Vet Tech Rounds: Abscesses in Pets Vet Talks 4 min read
A frequently asked question our pet experts usually get is “how do I treat an abscess?”. Unsurprisingly, abscesses are rather common and some pets may be more exposed than others. Although an abscess would not be considered a life-threatening issue, it is crucial that you use the correct method of treatment.
We wanted to help pet parents get a better understanding of what an abscess actually is, what can be the root cause of the problem and how to help them heal.
What is an abscess?
An abscess is described as being a painful pocket of puss, that is generally caused by a build-up of bacteria, and can be found anywhere on the body.
There are 2 types of abscess: skin abscess – these will develop underneath the skin. And internal abscess – these will develop inside the body. It can develop on organs or spaces between the organs.
Staphylococcus bacteria can be a common cause of abscesses. The infection develops from the bacteria entering the body through hair follicles or from puncture wounds and injuries that cause an opening in the skin. Abscesses in pets are often caused by puncture wounds from other animals, a foreign body in the skin and infected/rotting teeth. Other causes include impacted anal glands and liver abscesses caused by infection of the blood.
Most causes seem to be a result of pets fighting. Once another animal’s tooth punctures the skin, it buries the bacteria from the tooth, below the skin. When the wound heals quickly or the puncture wound is small, the bacteria will remain trapped under the skin which will then cause an infection.
Bite wounds can be quite dangerous, especially in cats. These open wounds can leave the body more exposed to contagious diseases carried by other feline friends. Two common viruses that cats are exposed to are Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV).
What are the clinical signs of an abscess?
There can be quite a few symptoms associated with an abscess so they can be easy to differentiate from a bump or a scratch:
- Red, swollen and painful on the infected site
- Heat around the area
- Bleeding/oozing from the wound
- Licking the site
- Hair loss
- Foul-smelling odor
- Lack of appetite
Are cats more susceptible to abscesses than dogs?
Cat teeth are known for being more likely to cause an abscess due to their teeth being longer and thinner and easily able to puncture the skin. There are also several types of pathogenic bacteria that live in a cat’s mouth which include Pasteurella Multocida and staphylococcus.
There are, in fact, certain dog breeds that are more prone to abscesses than others. These breeds include Shar Pei, English Bulldog and Labrador’s. These breeds all have shorter and stiffer hair, that can end up pushed back into the hair follicle resulting in abscesses.
Male dogs that are older also tend to be more at risk if they are not neutered. They are more at risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer which can also, at times result in a prostate abscess. Older female dogs that have not been spayed can also end up with mammary gland infections that can cause an abscess.
Can abscesses become fatal?
If the abscess is treated and managed properly, there is a good chance of healing. When left untreated, it can be extremely tough for the body to fight the infection on its own and can lead to a deeper and more widespread infection. Many abscesses will burst then drain on its own but it is very likely that the abscess will reappear if left without veterinary intervention.
How to treat an abscess
The treatment for an abscess will depend on the location and how bad the infection is. It is really important that the pocket of pus on the skin is either drained and flushed or surgically emptied. If the abscess was caused by a foreign object in the body, then the object must be removed, and if not the abscess will come back.
Antibiotics are usually prescribed to help treat an abscess. The type of antibiotic will depend on the type of bacteria that has caused the problem. When giving pets a course of antibiotics, it is essential that the whole treatment is finished. If you do not finish the course of antibiotics, the bacteria will become even more resistant to that antibiotic and therefore will have no effect if it is to be used again. Your veterinarian will also prescribe pain medication to help alleviate the swelling and heat of the area. It is also important to restrict activity to allow the tissue to heal properly.
A big part of the recovery process of an abscess is to monitor the healing. The most important questions you should be asking are:
- Is there increased draining or more pus than normal?
- Does it look like it’s improving?
Trying to avoid a reoccurring abscess will depend on the area and the type of tissue involved. If an anal gland abscess is persistent then it may be best to surgically remove the abscess. If you are to avoid a prostate or mammary abscess, then it may be best to neuter your pet. And if the abscess is reoccurring from bite wounds, it would be in their best interest to keep your pet indoors and try to prevent further fights.
Once your vet’s recommendations are followed, your pet should make a full recovery! In order to help your pet’s system with fighting these infections, our pet experts recommend our Natural Abscess Healing Kit, which contains:
- First Aid Spray: this is a natural antiseptic that can help to prevent infection. It also helps to speed healing and reduce inflammation. It’s great to ease pain and irritation on the skin.
- All Clear Ointment: it can help to reduce inflamed skin while helping to ease itching. It is great for eliminating bacterial and fungal infections and will support the healing of dry, flaky, red, or greasy skin.
We would also suggest using:
- Stimmune: it helps the immune system to fight against infection, especially effective for dermatitis and skin infections. As mentioned, abscesses can be pretty persistent so Stimmune can be beneficial when it comes to recurrent infections.
Published: April 9, 2020