Sunday, 1 October 2017

Abscesses - Cats, Rabbits and why us nurses love them!

To this day I have yet to meet a veterinary nurse that does not like abscesses, so why the heck not dedicate a whole blog post to the things!?

Wow to it being October already, so many things have happened this year already! However I thought I'd reflect back on a cute kitten I met late last year so here he is: 

The best abscess I've witnessed to date and played an active role in was in practice last year. A poor little ginger kitten came in to see us with a suspected broken hind leg. The leg was so swollen and hot, I'm talking the entire leg. We did some x-rays but hurrah the leg was in fact just dislocated. Whilst prepping the kitten for the x-rays I felt a tell-tale scab on the leg so suggested afterwards that we clip it up. My hunch was that the kitten had been bitten by something and shook and perhaps the swelling we were feeling was in fact an ABSCESS!!

As the kitten was already sedated at this point, the vet let me take the lead in clipping and cleaning the leg and looking for any wounds. Sure enough there was one and so I asked if he'd be happy for me to lance the swelling. Yesssss! Now I had a feeling this was going to be good but nothing could prepare me for how good. I called a few people over and using a scalpel blade lanced. WOW, I kid you not (and I wish to this day someone had filmed this for YouTube) the abscess was under that much pressure that when I broke through the capsule and squeezed the pus was only centimetres away from hitting the ceiling. I have never seen that quantity of pus fly that high. Luckily no one was hit by it :p. But wholly, that poor kitten must have been in so much pain having that quantity of infection trying to get out. As soon as I had squeezed the majority of it out and cleaned it some more, you could now clearly feel the hock dislocation and the two bones grating in a way that they just shouldn't.

Although not ideal for the infection, we did have to then splint the leg and re x-ray to make sure it was in the correct position. This poor kitten would need quite a few bandage changes and heaps of aftercare but I was so pleased that it wasn't a break or in need of amputation. The kitten in the pictures is the actual one for once, as I fell a little for the cute guy!

It's pretty common for cats to have a few abscesses in their lifetime. They're normally caused by being in a fight with another cat, the bacteria from the other cats mouth penetrates and festers under the skin and causing the infection secondary to the actual puncture wound. Swelling can develop 2-5 days after the fight, other signs can be a fever, the area is hot to the touch, limping and or a smell (if the abscess has already burst.) These do require treatment and being seen by your vet and they are pretty painful. Normally they will require pain meds, antibiotics and or lancing and flushing of the wound. 

On a side note other abscesses that we all love are of the rabbit variety - cottage cheese. Rabbits are notorious for getting abscesses, be in the dental kind or bite wounds inflicted by other bunnies or even tear duct ones. They can be much harder to treat that in other animals due to the actual pus being much thicker like toothpaste/cottage cheese.

This means that even once you lance them, they don't tend to drain very well by themselves - many require surgical intervention to remove the entire capsule of the abscess. 

I can't really explain why nurse's and or vets tend to love these things. Perhaps from a nursing point of view it's something we can get really involved in - hands on if you will. Perhaps its because you can see the problem obviously and you can treat it right there and then and see the instant results. Perhaps it's just because we're a weird breed that like the sight and smell of puss. Whatever the case I've never met a nurse that doesn't like the things ;p! 

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