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CAT ABSCESSES...THE PAIN, THE PUS, AND THE PROGNOSIS

Posted Sep 14 2009 7:53pm


Helpful Buckeye has discussed the topic of pet poisonings in several issues of Questions On Dogs and Cats, as well as the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. Our readers can review these discussions at:
http://questionsondogsandcats.blogspot.com/2009/05/national-dog-bite-prevention-
http://questionsondogsandcats.blogspot.com/2009/01/welcoming-new-year.html
http://questionsondogsandcats.blogspot.com/2009/03/transforming-winters-dreams.h and http://questionsondogsandcats.blogspot.com/2009/09/working-class-dogs-and-labor-.

The reason I'm bringing up this subject again is because of a submitted comment after last week's issue. Ahna Brutlag, DVM, Assistant Director of Veterinary Services, of Pet Poison Helpline wrote:

"Thanks for spreading the word on pet toxicities on your blog. It's so important for pet owners to be aware of the lurking household poisons in (and outside of) their house! As a veterinarian at an animal poison center, I speak to so many dog and cat owners who realize the perils of poisoning when it's too late. When in doubt, call an animal poison control center early on! I wanted to make you aware of another important resource out there--Pet Poison Helpline. Pet Poison Helpline is an animal poison control center and is the most cost-effective animal poison ($35/case vs. ASPCA's new $60/case) control out there. Unfortunately, because animal poison controls are not federally or state funded, there is a fee to allow the service to be run 24-7. We provide a similar service to that of the ASPCA's center, but have the added benefit of veterinary specialists (in internal medicine and emergency and critical care) as part of our staff. Please visit our website for more info and helpful tips! Our 24/7 phone number is 800-213-6680. Thanks for spreading the word!"



As Dr. Brutlag pointed out, the Pet Poison Helpline is a competitor with the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center and their web site is http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/...take a few minutes to browse the web site, look at their available options, and decide which one might be best for you. Helpful Buckeye would suggest keeping the phone numbers and web sites handy for both of these poison hotlines. When it comes to your pet being poisoned, more options for quick help will be much better than less.

Last week's poll question on which breeds of dog did NOT belong on the list of the AKC's "Working Group" produced a lot of wrong answers and some interesting discussion in e-mails. The AKC includes the following breeds in their Working Group: Akita, Alaskan Malamute, Anatolian Shepherd Dog, Bernese Mountain Dog, Black Russian Terrier, Boxer, Bullmastiff, Doberman Pinscher, Dogue de Bordeaux, German Pinscher, Giant Schnauzer, Great Dane, Great Pyrenees, Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, Komondor, Kuvasz, Mastiff, Neapolitan Mastiff, Newfoundland, Portuguese Water Dog, Rottweiler, Saint Bernard, Samoyed, Siberian Husky, Standard Schnauzer, and the Tibetan Mastiff. Therefore, the Labrador Retriever, Irish Wolfhound, and Border Collie did not belong on the list. They represent the Sporting, Hound, and Herding Groups respectively. From your e-mails, many of you felt these 3 breeds performed the work of a "working dog" and that may well be true. However, the AKC has strict guidelines as to which group a breed belongs, and they make the rules! Helpful Buckeye will cover the defining characteristics of these other breed groups in future issues of Questions On Dogs and Cats. Do any of you remember which one of these working group breeds played a part in the OJ Simpson double murder trial back in the 1990s? Either send an e-mail to: dogcatvethelp@gmail.com or post a comment at the end of this issue. Be sure to answer this week's poll question in the column to your left.

A note to "Anonymous," who submitted the comment, "So, there YOU are," this week: I know where I am, where are YOU?


CURRENT NEWS OF INTEREST

1) The American Kennel Club is sponsoring Responsible Dog Ownership Days during the month of September. There will be many events and programs around the country to help educate dog owners about their responsibilities. To find out what's going on in your state, go to this web site and enter your state in the appropriate box: http://www.akc.org/clubs/rdod/events/
2) The Humane Society of the United States has sponsored this pretty cool music video to help call attention to the need for adoption of shelter pets: http://video.hsus.org/index.jsp?fr_story=d4df627e42a64c870440fd639f0e34c24c00b4e

DISEASES, AILMENTS, AND MEDICAL CONDITIONS

One of Helpful Buckeye's lunch buddies has a cat which developed an abscess this past week. An abscess is a localized accumulation of pus in a body tissue. Cat abscesses are fairly common, especially among cats that spend at least part of their time outdoors. Abscesses often appear as a lump or a mass which can show up quite rapidly. They are usually painful to the cat due to the swelling of the affected area. They may feel full of fluid or they can feel fairly hard to the touch. The cat may show signs of being in pain, especially if the abscess is on a leg or if in a location likely to be petted by the owner. Even the most friendly cat may react aggressively to having an abscessed area touched, bumped, or rubbed.

Most cat abscesses will be located around the face, neck, front legs, tail, and rump. The reason for this is that tooth or claw punctures almost always are sustained when cats face off with each other or when they are trying to run away. Most owners may not even notice the injury until it has reached the stage of an abscess since many cats will appear to be normal and hide their pain until the infection begins to advance. Signs you might then notice would be:

  • Sluggishness and lethargy

  • Loss of appetite

  • Fever

  • Swelling and/or redness at the injury site

  • Fur missing around the injured area

  • Unwillingness to be picked up


If the early stages of the abscess formation are not noticed or are neglected, it will continue to swell as more pus and dead tissue builds up. This just serves to make it even more painful to your cat. At some point, most abscesses will burst, followed by an outpouring or drainage of foul-smelling pus. For some cat owners, this might be the first indication that something is wrong with their cat. This all can happen within a couple of days, depending on whether or not the puncture closes over.

As mentioned before, an abscess typically forms around a bite or claw gash, as bacteria are deposited below the skin into the underlying soft tissues. The most common bacteria to be involved are Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Pseudomonas, and E. coli, all of which are common contaminants of cat teeth and claws. Foreign bodies, such as cat teeth and cat claws, can also be found within an abscess.

When presented with a cat showing signs of an abscess, your veterinarian might deem it necessary to do some tests. These tests may include aspirating (withdrawing by way of needle and syringe) some of the liquid from the lump for further analysis, X-rays to find out if there are any teeth inside the swelling, and taking blood samples for evaluation of white blood cells. Sometimes, however, the physical exam provides all the clues necessary to determine that this is an abscess and the treatment can commence right away.

Once the diagnosis is made, treatment usually consists of ensuring adequate drainage for the build up of pus inside the abscess, along with providing an appropriate antibiotic for the actual bacterial infection. If the abscess has already opened by the time your veterinarian sees the cat, the cat should be feeling somewhat better. As the pus drains away, the swelling decreases and the fever generally starts to go down. If the abscess has not already burst, then your veterinarian will need to make a small incision into the lump to facilitate drainage. This may often have to be done under anesthesia so that all the dead tissues can be properly removed. Sometimes a drainage tube will have to be inserted into the abscess to allow for further evacuation of the pus. The worst thing that can happen to a healing abscess is that it closes over before all the drainage is finished...and the tube is to assure that not happening. Occasionally, the draining abscess will be left as a gaping wound, being allowed to heal as an open wound, depending on the location and size of the damaged area. There are several broad-spectrum antibiotics available for treating the bacterial component of the abscess. If an abscess breaks open for you at home, you should try to encourage further drainage by gently applying warm-water soaked compresses. As mentioned earlier, when an abscess opens up, the pain level diminishes and your cat will most likely tolerate the compresses. Try to keep the draining area as clean as possible, then get the cat to your veterinarian for further treatment.

Usually the outcome (prognosis) for cat abscesses is favorable for the majority of cats, as they respond well to appropriate treatment within 7-10 days. Almost always, when the skin heals over and the hair grows back, you'd hardly know there had been a problem. There will occasionally be some scarring and even patches of skin on which the hair won't grow any more. The few exceptions to this fairly rapid healing pattern would be cats that already have a compromised health status, such as Feline Leukemia, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), Diabetes Mellitus, or being on steroids for an immune problem.

The big question now is how to keep these abscesses from happening in the first place. Almost ALL cat abscesses happen to cats that are outdoors, so the first step is obvious-- KEEP THE CAT INDOORS! Furthermore, if your cat just has to get outdoors a little:

  • Neutering your cat will help since intact cats are much more likely to be bitten in a fight.

  • Most cat fights occur at night, so keep your cat indoors at night.

  • Abscesses are much more common during spring and fall since these are the usual breeding seasons for cats. Even neutered/spayed cats outdoors during those times can be victimized. Keep your cat indoors as much as possible in the spring and fall.

  • If your cat does spend time outdoors, you should get in the habit of giving the cat a head to tail rub once a day so that you can spot or feel a wound or abrasion promptly. Timely and appropriate treatment after your cat sustains a puncture wound just might help avoid the formation of an abscess.


NON-MEDICAL CONCERNS

Last week, when talking about Chanel, the 21-year old dog that had just recently died, there were some questions generated about the concept of 1 dog year equaling 7 human years. One of those questions, sent in by Butter Bean, in Arizona, went, "How has that 1 dog year=7 human years developed? What's the science, if any, behind it?"

OK, Butter Bean, be careful what you ask for because you might get it! As you said, it has been commonly accepted that 1 dog year is equal to 7 human years. However, due to the way the aging process of dogs differs from that of humans, this is not very accurate.

In general, dogs age in a manner somewhat similar to humans. Their bodies begin to develop problems which are less common at younger ages, they are more prone to serious or fatal conditions, they become less mobile and may develop joint problems, and in old age often become less physically active. Aging begins at birth, but its manifestations are not noticeable for several years. The first sign of aging is a general decrease in activity level, including a tendency to sleep longer and more soundly, a waning of enthusiasm for long walks and games of catch, and a loss of interest in the goings on in the home...is this for dogs or humans?

The main factor causing a difference in the aging process for dogs is the breed of the dog. It has been well established that the smaller breeds have a longer life expectancy than a larger breed. It's not uncommon for smaller breeds to live beyond 15 years, while the giant breeds may only live 7-8 years. From this, you can see that 1 year of a small dog's life definitely does not equal 1 year of a giant dog's life. And, to make the leap to what that equals in human years has no basis in fact. However, as some people have suggested, it might be possible to compare the stages of maturation between dogs and humans. In all but the large breeds, socio-sexual interest arises around 6-9 months, they become an "emotional" adult around 15-18 months, and reach full maturity around 3-4 years, although as with humans, learning and refinement continues thereafter. In comparative terms, the human equivalent of a 1-year old dog would then be about 10-15 years. The second year for a dog would be equivalent to another 8-10 years for the human.

Helpful Buckeye suggests that somebody many years ago decided that the average dog lives 10 years and the average human lives 70 years. From that, the math is simple: 1 dog year equals 7 human years. However, by that same math, a pet fish that lives 2 years would then have 1 fish year equaling 35 human years. You can see the foolishness of this game...it proves nothing. Since there is no scientific basis for this comparison, dog owners would be better off to compare the juvenile, adolescent, adult, and geriatric years of their dog to the same time periods of themselves.

GENERAL INTEREST

1) For those of you who are known to hit a cue ball around the green felt from time to time, here's a great video of Halo, the Doggy Pool Shark, sinking some pretty decent shots: http://www.pawnation.com/2009/09/09/doggy-pool-shark/ He can be on my team any time!

2) This past week, we saw a Tibetan Mastiff (yes, one of those "working group" dogs) sell for almost $600,000 to a Chinese woman. No matter how you look at it, that makes him a very expensive dog...actually the priciest on Earth: http://news.aol.com/article/earths-priciest-dog-purchased-by-chinese/666000?icid

3) Well, the myth of the hypoallergenic dog may be just that...a myth. Schering-Plough, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies and maker of many human allergy medicines, has published their disclaimer about such a dog. Read their explanation at: http://www.pawnation.com/2009/09/11/the-myth-surrounding-hypoallergenic-dogs/

4) The ASPCA has been running a "Dog Days of Summer Video Contest" and now is featuring the top 5 entries for you to vote on. Go to their web site, take a few minutes to watch all 5 videos (they're all pretty short), and vote for your favorite: http://www.aspca.org/news/video-contests/summer-video-contest.html

5) Sable, a German Shepherd mix, has been stirring up attention in Michigan for his talent and aptitude for sniffing out raw sewage and other illegal toxic discharge. His owner has been staying busy with Sable after a 6-month training period: http://www.pawnation.com/2009/09/03/german-shepherd-has-a-nose-for-sewage/

6) Dr. Mary Burch, of the AKC, provides some tips on how to keep your dog comfortable on long car rides: http://www.pawnation.com/2009/09/03/q-how-can-i-keep-my-dog-comfortable-during-l

7) Perhaps the dogs on the long car rides would benefit from practicing some Yoga positions, huh? Check these dogs out: http://www.urlesque.com/2009/09/10/yoga-dogs-say-ohm-we-say-omg/ Helpful Buckeye's favorite is Sammy.

8) Helpful Buckeye didn't want all of our cat lovers to feel cheated this week, so we'll finish this section with a peek at some cats which like to curl up in sinks. That's right, sinks! Cat owners will tell you that this is fairly common among our feline friends: http://www.pawnation.com/2009/08/14/catsinsinks-com-discovers-cats-like-sinks/

SPORTS NEWS



The Pittsburgh Steelers started the season with a big win over a tough Titan team.


The LA Dodgers took 4 of 6 games on the road against the D'Backs and the Giants, but our lead over the Rockies still got smaller. This next 2 weeks will be interesting!


The Ohio State Buckeyes disappeared in the last 7 minutes of their game against Southern Cal. Our players played their hearts out for the first 53 minutes of the game, pretty much controlling the momentum. Helpful Buckeye suggests that it's time for a total change of the coaching staff in Columbus. This coaching staff seems to be content with being competitive within the Big-10 conference while the premier programs around the country have their focus on the national championship every year. Buckeye fans all over the USA have to feel cheated by our leadership! On a brighter note, Helpful Buckeye and good friend Casey, a Southern Cal grad, exchanged 21 e-mails during that last 7 minutes of the game. Needless to say, Casey's went from despair to near-giddiness at the end. I'm happy for him, but....


PERSONAL STUFF

Desperado and Helpful Buckeye had a very rewarding hike along the West Rim trail at the Grand Canyon on Labor Day. The views were even more thrilling and impressive than those from the South Rim. The weather was beautiful, sunny, temperature of 72 degrees, 15% humidity, and a 5 MPH breeze out of the southwest. We feel fortunate to be able to experience so many of Nature's wonders so close to home! We started out early that morning with this thought from Joseph Priestley, English scientist and discoverer of oxygen, "I have always been delighted at the prospect of a new day, a fresh try, one more start, with perhaps a bit of magic waiting somewhere behind the morning...."

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~
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