You Make The Diagnosis: Name This Common Condition

Pictured below is the rear end of an adult, orange cat.  His back legs are seen on the right side of the image and the underside of his tail is on the left.  His owner noticed a bloody area of skin just below his anus.  Name this common condition in cats.   

Diagnosis:  Cat Fight Abscess

Cat fight abscesses are a fairly common problem in veterinary medicine.  When cats bite each other, they inject bacteria from their mouths under the skin. The bacteria grow in the warm conditions forming a pocket of infection called an abscess.  Clinically, these cats are lethargic and feverish.  Since cats are so good at hiding their illnesses, most people do not know anything is wrong with their pet until the abscess ruptures.  When this abscess ruptured, blood mixed with the yellow colored pus to form a pink fluid that the owner found on the floor.  

The most important part of treatment is draining the infection out of the abscess.  The entire area is clipped and cleaned with an antiseptic solution.  Large abscesses may require a surgically placed drain to facilitate drainage.  The patient goes home on antibiotics and medicine to control pain.  Most cats will also require a large plastic e-collar to prevent licking.

Because of the location, the other rule out for this is an anal gland abscess.  Cats have anal glands that secrete a smelly liquid onto their feces.  In many cats, you can see the openings of these glands at approximately the 4 and 8 o’clock positions, marked by a black dot.  If the gland is plugged, the secretion builds up and forms an abscess beneath the skin.  Since the orange cat pictured above lives with two precocious kittens and has normal anal glands, it is a cat fight abscess.  

With proper treatment, this cat made a full recovery.  The pictures below are close ups of the area during the healing process.

Warning:  If you live in the desert southwest region of the United States, plague may also cause abscess formation.  Although rare, use extreme caution with all abscesses until a diagnosis is reached.      

4 days of healing                                                                  7 days of healing

Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.