Whats the subject today?
Well we often talk about quite complicated and sometimes rare diseases so today I thought I’d talk about the good old simple abscess.
What exactly is an abscess?
Basically it’s a collection of pus in a cavity within body tissues. Pus is the decaying remains of dead cells. Abscesses are often caused by bacterial infection but not always.
So are abscesses simple to deal with?
Some are but no not always. People are often relieved when you tell them their pet has an abscess as they assume they are easy to treat but that is not always the case.
What sort of things does that depend on?
Partly on which species of animal we are dealing with but also on the location of the abscess and also what caused it.
What difference does the species of animal make?
Some animals like the cat have evolved to cope very well with abscesses. It is a fact of life that cats have to fight and their claws and teeth often cause skin abscesses in each other. In order to survive cats have evolved into a species with a great immune system.
So do cats with abscesses need treatment?
Yes they do but once the abscess has been drained and they are placed on antibiotics they heal very quickly.
So is that not the case with all species?
No. Rabbits for instance have a very poor immune system. Their strategy for survival has been to evolve a very efficient breeding system. Rabbits breed so profusely that each individual rabbit doesn’t need to have a strong immune system. If one dies there are 20 more to take its place.
So is it possible to treat rabbit abscesses.
Only if they are relatively small and only if they are just in the skin and not involving deeper tissues. With Rabbits the whole abscess needs to be cut away. Simply draining them like we do in cats would just be a waste of time.
What about dogs. How do they cope?
Pretty good but not as good as cats. Dogs can get very sick with abscesses and often get septicaemia. One problem with dogs is that the abscess is often caused not by bite wounds but by foreign bodies like grass seeds.
Why is that a problem?
Grass seeds can be very difficult to find in dog abscesses, a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack. If the grass seed isn’t found the abscess will keep coming back time and time again.
What other difficulties are there with abscesses other than different species.
Abscesses aren’t just limited to the skin, they can occur anywhere in the body. If it happens to be in an organ like the liver or kidney then it becomes very difficult to treat.
What can be done?
Well if it’s a kidney abscess there is an option to remove a kidney as there are two of them. If it is in the liver then the treatment is the same as with any other abscess- drainage and antibiotics. But draining an internal abscess is very difficult, time consuming and expensive and there may well be permanent damage to the affected organ too.
So people need to take abscesses seriously then?
Absolutely, even cats can die from untreated abscesses.
What is todays question?
Which common fluffy pet is the least likely to survive an abscess (RABBIT)