If you are one of those people who enjoy watching others express ooze from living things, you might consider veterinary medicine as a career path.

While obviously there is a lot more to the field of veterinary medicine, Blue Valley Animal Hospital treats more than our fair share of abscesses. While they are often satisfying to treat, abscesses in pets can be painful and even cause serious complications, though. They are important for animal lovers to understand.

The Anatomy of an Abscess

An abscess, by definition, is a confined swelling within the tissue of the body that contains pus. Pus is the body’s response to infection and contains dead white blood cells, bacteria, remnants of body tissues, and serum. Sounds great, right?

Abscesses can occur almost anywhere in or on the body when bacteria are introduced somewhere that they shouldn’t be. In particular, species of bacteria that thrive in anaerobic environments (without oxygen) tend to love to form pus within tissues.

Common reasons that our veterinary team finds abscesses in pets include:

  • Bite wounds (especially punctures)
  • Penetrating wounds from things like sticks
  • Diseased teeth
  • Foreign objects within the body (foxtails, etc.)
  • Impacted anal sacs
  • Infection in the lung tissue
  • The prostate gland
  • Blood infections leading to liver abscesses

Treating Abscesses in Pets

Abscesses in pets typically appear as firm, warm, and painful swellings, although some internal abscesses are less easily detected. 

Many pets will experience a fever, especially before the abscess ruptures. They may also be lethargic, have a decreased appetite, or be preoccupied with licking or otherwise bothering the site of the problem. 

If you think your pet might have an abscess, please schedule an appointment with us right away. While not typically a pet emergency, It is important that we drain the infection, remove the source of the problem which may include foreign material, and start antibiotic therapy and pain management. 

If your pet is diagnosed with an abscess, besides bringing him or her in to see us, you can also help at home.

  • Gently apply warm compresses as tolerated to encourage draining
  • Administer medications as directed
  • Avoid over the counter medications which may interfere with those prescribed
  • Do not squeeze or try to express the abscess- this can be painful and if done improperly can actually cause harm

If your pet’s abscess begins to drain outwardly, try not to panic. While definitely not pleasant, draining pus and blood means that the infection is leaving your pet’s body. In fact, most pets feel much better once this happens.

Most of the time, abscesses in pets are able to be successfully treated. Until the proper course of action is determined, though, they can be very upsetting for pets and their owners. Don’t hesitate to bring your pet to us if you think that there may be an abscess. Treating abscesses is definitely right up our alley.