Pele is a 5 year old male neutered domestic shorthair (ginger) who loves to explore his local surrounds. Last week his owners noticed he had a swelling on the side of his face and also that his eye didn’t look 100% comfortable – so they brought him in for a veterinary check.
It was found that he had a scab on the side of his face, and when this was lifted off there was a large amount of purulent (pus) discharge that oozed out. When his mouth was opened we also found that there was a large opening behind his large upper molar tooth (on the same side as the swelling on the cheek).
Pele was given an antibiotic injection and pain relief and the following morning we anaesthetized him to investigate the abscess (pocket of infection).
Abscessation can happen from cat fight wounds – as the bacteria are introduced under the skin when the other animal bites through, or scratches them. The bacteria then proliferate and the area will appear swollen, hot and sore. Often we will see the abscess burst as the pressure under the skin can no longer hold the infection in, and the original wound will open up.
It is very important to remove the infection, and to clean the “pockets” of infection thoroughly so that healthy tissue can heal over. A general anesthetic allows us to probe the area and determine how big the area affected is. If the “pocket” is large, then a drain may need to be placed. Drains are used to allow the fluid to be removed from the site, as this will ultimately impede the healing capability of the wound.
Sometimes, we also need to take xrays of the area, depending on the location of the wound. This is because we need to determine if there is joint or bony involvement, as treatment duration and type of antibiotic used may change depending on the area involved.
In Pele’s case, due to the fact that we also saw a possible infection in the mouth, we took a dental and skull xray. We found that he did actually have a fracture – of the zygomatic arch (see the xray).
Thankfully, there was not a lot of displacement (movement) so no intervention was required. We then opened the wound on the side of his cheek, flushing with saline and probing to determine the extent of the infected pocket. The area on the cheek was found to be approximately 7cm in height and 4cm in width extending from the base of his ear to his chin, and swelling up to the margins of his lips. Based on this, we elected to place a penrose drain into his face.
The infection opening into the mouth was probed as well and found to be communicating with the wound in the face! Based on this we flushed this area thoroughly as well with saline to remove as much of the bacteria as possible.
Due to the fact that there was a fracture of the bone in his face, and potentially nasty bacteria in the abscess, we placed Pele onto a type of antibiotic used more commonly in cases of osteomyelitis (or bony infection). A longer course (14 days) was also prescribed so that we could be sure that we were treating him adequately, as the effects of a true bony infection in that area could be devastating.
Pele’s drain has been kept in for 3 days (until there is no more fluid at the exit points) and he has been sporting a delightful Elizabethan collar, so that he would not scratch or irritate the sutures or drain on his face.
Both cats and dogs can sustain abscess infections, so if you are ever unsure about a swelling or pain on your animal, contact us here at Vet HQ. All domesticated pets should ideally be kept indoors from dusk to dawn, not only to protect themselves, but also the native wildlife.