Pet Abscess

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An abscess is a bacterial infection in cats and dogs that forms from secondary health problems. Abscesses may start off as open bacterial infections, and then as they heal from the outside, the infection progresses on the inside and forms a pocket filled with pus. They can also develop when bacteria is introduced in the body through deep punctures. Open abscesses produce a whitish discharge, whereas closed abscesses appear as a lump that can range in size. If there’s too much pressure built up, a closed abscess may also burst.


Abscesses can occur from deep wounds, animal bites, and from foreign objects lodged in the skin. A common example of how an abscess develops is cat bites. Cats have very sharp and long teeth that can easily pierce a dog’s or cat’s skin, introducing bacteria from their teeth into the body. Although the bite wound may seem insignificant or even appear healed, the bacteria continue to multiply deep within the body, which eventually causes an abscess to form.


With an open abscess, you may notice pus drainage and a foul smell. Also, the affected area may be red, warm, and painful. Besides physical manifestations, abscesses can also cause other symptoms in your pet, such as lethargy, fever, loss of appetite, and vomiting.

Treatment and Home Care

If an abscess is diagnosed early, it may be treated with oral antibiotics, pain and anti-inflammatory medication, and lancing/flushing of the area. More severe cases require surgical correction while the pet is under anesthesia. During the procedure, the veterinarian will open the abscess and create two punctures. A drain (long rubber tube or cotton “shoe string-like” lace) will then be introduced into the punctures and tied together from the outside. This is a strategy used to keep the abscess open and allow for drainage until the infection is resolved.
Your pet will be sent home with antibiotics, pain management, and instructions for keeping the area clean. Drainage from the abscess for the first week is normal. You can use gauze, warm water, and mild antibacterial soap two to three times daily to maintain the area clean. Gently squeezing the abscess can also help get rid of the infection a lot quicker.


Preventing an abscess from forming in your pet is not difficult. If your pet becomes injured, whether it is a big or small wound, you should have a veterinarian evaluate him. In most cases, the veterinarian will prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection. Also, be sure to check your pet daily, especially if they have been outdoors, for any foreign objects that may be stuck in their fur, in between their toes, in the ears, and in their eyes.