Abscesses in Dogs and Cats

Abscesses are a fairly common medical presentation in both dogs and cats. Abscesses usually appear as sudden soft tissue swellings that can often be hot, painful and inflamed, and are usually associated with secondary bacterial infections, as well as pus formation.

They may appear on the surface of the body associated with the underlying soft tissues or skin, and may also occur in places involving the joints or anal sacs. Fever is commonly present with acute abscesses.

Abscesses are common in cats and dogs.

There are many possible causative factors with abscess formation.  Bite wounds from other animals, which are commonly seen in outdoor cats, often lead to secondary infections, as animals’ mouths are full of bacteria.  Foreign bodies such as grass awns, tiny sticks, pebbles, and gauze pads also can lead to inflammation and secondary abscess formation.  In older pets, underlying tumors may also lead to abscess formation.  It is even possible to see internal abscesses involving the pancreas or prostate which can make pets quite systemically ill.

The diagnosis of abscesses is based on the appearance of the swellings and aspirate of the pus on direct visual exam, or ultrasound of internal organs.  Treatment often includes lancing the abscess to allow drainage of the pus for several days, as well as sometimes the placement of special plastic tubing if the abscess is large.  Warm compresses over the area for 5-10 minutes a few times daily also promotes healing and wound drainage.  For acute abscesses, injectable and/or oral antibiotics are often used in pets for 10-14 days.

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