Abscesses in Cats


David McCluggage, D.V.M., C.V.A.

In cats, we mostly see abscesses under the skin, often due to cat bird wounds. Many are not life threatening, but all of them must be appropriately treated so they do not become serious. If drained, hot packed and treated with herbal medications, many of them DO NOT need antibiotics.

While treating your cat for a cat bite, monitor how they are feeling, eating, and acting. Take her temperature as well. A moderate fever (less than 102.5 [[deg]]F) is normal and not overly concerning. A fever over 104.5 [[deg]]F is of concern and often means she needs an antibiotic and veterinary attention.

Symptoms:

  1. Localized swelling, usually hot to the touch and often feels like there is a fluid filled pocket
  2. Open, bloody, draining hole (this is after the abscess has opened and started draining).
  3. At this point you may be able to treat at home with hot packing and flushing.
  4. People often think their cat has been cut if the abscess is open and bleeding, when in fact, it opened from the inside to allow the pus to drain out.
  5. Fever (100-102.5 [[deg]]F is normal, 103.5 [[deg]]F. and higher is a significant fever; fevers over 104.4 [[deg]]F need to be seen by veterinarian)
  6. Limping, if the abscess is on a leg or foot

Treatment:

Most abscesses will readily heal by:

  1. Lancing and draining the abscess, leaving a large opening for the abscess to continue to drain (the veterinarian can do this)
  2. Hot packing the abscess twice daily (wash clothed heated with hot water, held onto the abscess for 10 minutes, reheating the wash cloth several times
  3. Flushing the abscess with a disinfectant such as chlorhexidine (diluted by adding 2 ounces chlorhexidine into one gallon of water) or a 1:20 dilution of chlorine (bleach)
  4. Taking your cats temperature as mentioned
  5. Consider using the herbal and homeopathic therapies below

Western Medical Therapy:

The typical approach is to anesthetize your cat. In some cases, the abscess can be drained without anesthesia. Then the veterinarian will drain the abscess ("lance it"), flush out the pus and often place a drain in the abscess to keep it open and they will place the cat on an antibiotic.

The antibiotic is usually not needed; abscesses heal because of the draining and flushing, followed by hot packing and repeated flushing at home, not by the use of antibiotics.

We recommend no antibiotics be used, unless:

  • there is cellulitis spread through the area (the entire leg for example will be swollen, not just one area, and thus not localized into a pocket
  • or the abscess is deep in muscle tissues.
  • there is a high fever (104.5 [[deg]]F)

Some abscesses become chronic and the following therapies will be helpful in resolving these difficult cases. Our complementary therapies will also be very helpful for cats that are treated at home when the owner is already educated on how to manage cat abscesses.

Complementary Therapies

  • Chinese herbs
    Paris 7-I.T.M.

  • Homeopathic remedies
    Ledum 6C
    Silicea 6C

  • If abscesses are chronic or recurring, boost the immune system:
    Immugen, (to read about it, click here)
    Arabinex (to read about it, click here)

  • If antibiotics are used, repopulate the intestines with beneficial bacteria:

    Douglas Multi-Probiotic 40 Billion