Dear Vets: My cat Geoffrey was wrestling with my other cat Quinn yesterday. Today I noticed a soft lump on his back that is very tender to the touch. I think Quinn bit him by an accident. Geoffrey seems a little less active today and isn’t eating very much at all. What should I do?
Cat and dog bites can be very painful and although you may not be able to see any teeth marks underneath the thick fur coat, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a couple of teeth holes in the skin.
There are a lot of resident bacteria in the mouth of animals, making an infection a likely scenario from any bite that is not immediately cleaned properly. An abscess can form when an infected bite wound heals on the surface, trapping an infection inside. The infected skin and tissue will begin to degrade and liquefy causing the formation of pus. People typically will note a fluid filled swelling in the skin.
A lot of the time the animal will become listless and eat less since the infection can cause a high fever. Sometimes the wound will rupture on its own and will begin to drain foul smelling pus.
If not treated promptly, this can lead to a life threatening infection. The best thing to do is to seek veterinary attention immediately so that the wound can be lanced and cleaned.
The animal can then be started on a course of antibiotics to battle the infection from the inside out.
Occasionally if the tissue is devitalized or dead, it will require surgical trimming and stitches. Sometimes a rubber hose or drain will be sewn under the skin for a few days to keep the wound open enough to allow drainage. The key is immediate medical treatment.
Although your cats are from the same household, an outdoor cat that is bitten by another feral cat can transmit viral diseases that can be lethal. Both feline leukaemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus can be transmitted from the saliva of infected cats.
Theses viruses are both similar to the HIV virus in humans in that they depress the immune system and can leave the affected cat more susceptible to other infections.
These viruses are not transmissible from cats to people, but represent serious contagious infections spread by cat bite wounds.
Testing your cat to see if he is positive for either of these viruses is done optimally 60 days after the time of the bite.
There are now vaccines for both of these viruses that can protect your cat from acquiring these deadly viruses.
Having said that, keeping your cat inside is the best protection of all! Indoor cats outlive outdoor cats by 10 to one!
If your cat’s wound does not heal within seven days of examination you should revisit your veterinarian.
Some abscesses will take longer than this to heal, but sometimes it will require additional medical or surgical intervention.
Visit your local veterinarian for more information on how to treat cat bite abscesses.