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Abscesses (Pus Pockets)

What is an abscess?

An abscess is a collection of pus within a cavity or pocket. Abscesses can occur in the skin, muscle, or any body organ. The pus may appear cloudy. It may be yellow, greenish, brown, or red. Generally it has a foul odor. When examined through the microscope, the pus contains inflammatory cells (such as white blood cells). Abscesses usually are infected.

What causes an abscess?

When an infectious organism (most often a bacteria or fungus) or any foreign material penetrates the body's tissues, the body usually ejects them quickly. If this is not possible, the body will build a wall (called a fibrin capsule) around the infectious or foreign material. Inflammatory cells and serum fill the cavity, resulting in an abscess.

What are the signs of an abscess?

The signs depend upon the location of the abscess. The pet may have a fever. Skin abscesses cause swelling, heat, and pain under the skin's surface. Sometimes an open, draining wound may be noticed. Internal abscesses may make the pet feel sick, without any other specific signs.

How is an abscess diagnosed?

Skin abscesses often are diagnosed on physical examination. Internal abscesses generally require additional tests. The veterinarian may run a complete blood count (CBC) to look for changes in the white blood cell (WBC) count that suggest infection. A blood chemistry panel may give clues to the location of an abscess, such as rising liver enzymes associated with a liver abscess. Urinalysis may help diagnose a prostate or kidney abscess. Radiographs (X-rays) and ultrasound may show exactly where an abscess is located. Echocardiography (an ultrasound examination of the heart) may be used to locate an abscess in the heart.

It is important to perform a bacterial culture and sensitivity test when abscesses don't heal, recur after treatment, or are located inside an internal organ. The culture and sensitivity test will identify the infectious organism and tell which antibiotics are most likely to be effective. Also, your pet may need to be tested for immune system problems (such as feline leukemia virus, feline immunodeficiency virus, thyroid disease, or adrenal gland disease) if the abscess is slow to heal.

How are abscesses treated?

Abscesses are treated by removing the cause of the infection, allowing the pocket to drain properly, and administering appropriate antibiotic therapy. In many cases, surgery is required to remove the cause and to establish drainage. Abscesses may need to be treated for several weeks in order to heal completely.

What is the prognosis for an animal with an abscess?

With medical treatment, the prognosis (outcome) for an animal with an abscess is good. Most pets will heal completely following abscess drainage and a few weeks to a month of antibiotics. Left untreated, abscesses rarely heal. They often will rupture and then re-form. Rupture of an internal abscess can cause septicemia (whole body infection), which can be fatal.

The information on this page was obtained from the site www.vetmedcenter.com