Handling abscesses in cats

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If a cat or dog has some poison or object that doesn’t want in the body it endeavours to push the poison into the flesh surrounding the poison in an attempt to get rid of it. That’s how abscess formed. Let’s find out how to cure it in cats.
Joan E Henderson
Infections occur for a variety of reasons and we need to groom our cats on a regular basis and keep a close watch on the condition of the coat and skin so we can pick up any infection before it becomes a really serious problem.
Abscess is like a small war and the offending poison is the germ or army. This is where the white blood cells come into play and try to get rid of the germ. The most important thing is that you should never squeeze an abscess/boil under any circumstance. By squeezing, you are shoving the poison back into the system.
Symptoms: You recognise an abscess by seeing that the area is swollen; it feels warm and the cat will soon let you know that it is very painful if you touch the area and you can also see that the skin is red.
First-aid: The first thing to do is to get a bowl, half full of warm water and add a few tablespoons of salt. Get a clean cloth and soak it in the warm water and squeeze out the excess before holding it against the infected area. When the cloth becomes cooler, soak it in the warm water again and repeat the process. It is necessary for this to be done for 10-15 minutes. Dry the area and leave it alone. If the abscess is on the legs you can soak the whole limb. Repeat this exercise in 4-5 hours.
Contact your vet: Once the abscess comes to head, it is wise to take the cat to the veterinarian and he will decide if it needs to be lanced, or bathed until it opens on its own. He will also make the decision if it is necessary to prescribe penicillin or an anti-biotic to clear up the infection completely. Instead of prescribing the anti-biotic immediately, it is often more beneficial to assist the body with gentle heat until the body has begun to heal itself and then prescribe modern antibiotics.
Care after it bursts: Once an abscess has burst, home aid consists of bathing the area as stated above – hydrogen peroxide can be used instead of salt at this stage as hydrogen peroxide helps to draw away the pus. It also cuts down the odour of the infection which can be very unpleasant. The cat will usually leave the area alone and you can finish the bathing with salt water. It is wise to keep the area open and draining for several days to avoid the germs from multiplying again and re-creating the original problem. This can increase the size of the abscess and the cat is then in a great deal of more pain and discomfort than when the infection first appeared.
Watch out: Never bandage over an abscess as this only sends the infection back into the body rather than letting the poison works its way out. One problem with this situation is that it is not always easy to diagnose an abscess… it is possible it could be tumour and sometimes a swelling that is diagnosed as a tumour can be an abscess. The important thing to remember is that if after 2-3 days of bathing a swelling does not heal or come to a head then it is wise to consult your veterinarian for professional advice. If the abscess is close to the eye or the jaw, do not delay with home treatment – get to the veterinarian. Often it can be an infected tooth and we all know how painful a toothache can be. The same applies to an infection in or around the ear – this can be very painful and needs immediate attention.
Unfortunately Tom Cats often get bad abscesses and infections as they go out and fight with other Tom Cats and get nasty scratches. Get your cat neutered and keep him inside.
(Joan E Henderson is based in Australia and she has judged furry felines in many other countries including the USA, Bermuda, Malaysia, South Africa, Hong Kong, Philippines and New Zealand.)

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