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Abscesses

Acne of the chin

Anaemia

Asthma

Abscesses


Abscesses are a common skin condition in cats. They frequently occur as a result of bites during fights. A cat's mouth has many bacteria and when a cat bites, the bacteria enter the puncture wound. Because cat's teeth are sharp and relatively narrow, the wound often heals over, but the bacteria are trapped inside. The bacteria multiply and the cat's body reacts by trying to kill the bacteria. White blood cells, mostly neutrophils, enter the area. As the neutrophils die, more and more of them move to the area. The result is an abscess.

What is an abscess?

An abscess is a localised accumulation of pus. In the case of abscesses caused by cat bites, the pus also contains many bacteria.

Which cats are at risk?

Unneutered male cats who are allowed outdoors are at highest risk of abscesses since they are the cats that are most likely to fight. Abscesses can also occur in indoor cats in multicat households. Cat fights and, therefore, abscesses are more likely when new cats are introduced into a household that already has cats.

What are the signs of an abscess?

Abscesses are often swollen, hot, and painful to the touch. If they open, a thick yellowish discharge may be seen, and it often has a foul smell. If an abscess does not open, the cat may become ill. In cats, an abscess is often hidden under the fur, and the first sign of illness the owner may see is that the cat is acting depressed and not eating. The cat usually has a fever.

Abscesses are usually found in those areas that are often bitten during a cat fight – limbs, head, neck, and the base of the tail. If the abscess is on a leg, the cat may limp. The cat may try to bite if the area is stroked or touched because the abscess is painful. Because of the pain, some cats may appear irritable or aggressive.

How is an abscess diagnosed?

If your cat is not eating, has a fever, and a history of contact with other cats, your vet will be alerted to the possibility of an abscess. Upon examining your cat, the vet may be able to see a small amount of matted fur over the abscess. The fur will be clipped over the affected area, and often a small healing puncture wound can be found. It is often necessary to clip a wide area, to look for multiple puncture wounds, but caused by different teeth.

How are abscesses treated?

After the area is clipped and cleansed, the abscess will be lanced (an incision made by cutting), and drained. A relatively large opening is generally made, so the wound will continue to stay open and drain. Often antibiotic tablets will be prescribed. In most cases, cats respond well after the abscess is opened.

In addition to bacterial infections, other infections can be transmitted by cat fights. These include feline leukemia (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).

How can I prevent abscesses?

The main way to prevent abscesses is to prevent your cat from being involved in cat fights. Keep your cat indoors. If your cat is an outdoor cat, have your cat spayed or neutered, since this will make your cat less likely to fight. When introducing new cats to each other, do it slowly.

To prevent transmission of other diseases, keep your cat's vaccination status current.

 

Acne


Feline acne is a condition in which comedones (blackheads) develop on the chin of a cat.

What causes feline acne?

The exact cause of feline acne is not known, but several factors appear to be associated with its development including stress, a suppressed immune system, poor grooming habits, the presence of other diseases, contact dermatitis and skin conditions in which abnormal amounts of oils are produced and the hair follicles do not function properly.

What are the signs of feline acne?

Multiple comedones form on the chin and lips of the cat, and the chin may appear "dirty." The comedones can develop into small abscesses, which break open and form crusts. In severe cases, draining tracts, hair loss, and swelling may develop on the chin. It may be itchy and cause the cat to scratch, which can lead to even more trauma to the area. Secondary bacterial infections can develop. The condition may appear only once in the life of a cat, it may come and go, or may remain for the life of the cat. In Persian cats, the condition may also affect the face and skin folds.

Feline acne occurs equally in male and female cats, and in cats of all ages and breeds.

How is feline acne treated?

Feline acne can be controlled, but is not really "cured." Very mild cases of feline acne in which there are no symptoms may not be treated. In other cases, antiseborrheic shampoos, oral or topical antibiotics may be used if there is a secondary bacterial infection.Topical Vitamin A can often be used, but it is irritating, and needs to be applied very sparingly.

It may be helpful to switch food and water dishes to a stainless steel or glass variety in the event an allergic reaction may be a contributing factor (cats can be allergic to plastics and dyes). Using a very shallow dish can also be helpful. Owners should regularly clean the chins of cats who are prone to the development of feline acne and/or have poor grooming habits.

 

Anaemia


Anaemia describes a reduction in the amount of red blood cells in the circulation and is a relatively common problem in cats. Red blood cells are important for carrying oxygen from the lungs to all the organs of the body.

Signs of Anaemia

The signs of anaemia will depend on the severity, and also on the speed of onset of the anaemia, and the underlying cause. The speed of onset is particularly important because if the anaemia develops slowly, cats adapt to having a much lower number of red blood cells and may show no signs at all until the anaemia is extremely severe. Most often the cat just appears more lethargic than normal, sleeps a lot more, and gradually becomes weaker and stops eating. Depending on the underlying cause, other signs may also be present e.g. jaundice or yellow mucous membranes. If bleeding into the intestine is the cause of the anaemia very dark or black faeces are visible.

What can cause anaemia?

Excessive breakdown of red blood cells in the circulation can occur for a number of reasons, including infectious diseases such as feline leukaemia infection, an abnormal reaction to certain drugs, poisoning (e.g. paracetemol, ingestion of products containing onions or garlic), cancers, and an abnormality of the immune system.

If the bone marrow is not responding to the anaemia and producing new red blood cells, this is a sign of either a disease within the bone marrow, or a severe disease elsewhere in the body that is stopping the bone marrow from functioning properly such as kidney disease.

How is anaemia diagnosed?

To diagnose anaemia your vet will perform a full clinical examination on your pet. He may find pale mucous membranes, for instance inside the mouth or on the inside of the eyelids. Your vet will take a blood sample to determine the haematocrit or PCV (packed cell volume), which is the percentage of red blood cells within the blood. Blood smears are often examined for the presence of young, immature red blood cells. This is to check whether the body is actually making new red blood cells in the bone marrow. Parasites are also sometimes found on a blood smear. In some cases it may be necessary to perform other tests as well, such as a biochemistry profile, to check for underlying diseases, faecal examinations, to check for certain parasites or bone marrow biopsies.

How is anaemia treated?

Treatment of anaemia is totally dependent on the cause of the anaemia. Only in severe cases (generally if the packed cell volume falls below 10%) is a blood transfusion necessary.

 

Asthma


Some cases of feline small airway disease involving the small airways or bronchioles within the lungs; show similarities to asthma in humans, hence it is frequently known as 'feline asthma', however the majority of cases are not proven to have an allergic cause. Inhalation of irritants such as pollens, cigarette smoke, dust and household cleaning sprays are sometimes responsible.

The airways respond to an irritant by contraction of the bronchial smooth muscle in order to prevent the irritant from moving deeper into the lung, production of mucus to trap the irritant and coughing to expel the irritant. Contraction of the smooth muscle, mucus production and airway inflammation all contribute to narrowing of the airways which results in difficulty breathing.

Which cats are most affected ?

Cats of any age, breed or sex can develop chronic airway disease, however young to middle aged cats are most frequently affected. Siamese cats appear to be particularly prone.

Clinical signs

Signs vary from chronic coughing and/or wheezing to the development of sudden onset difficulty breathing. An increase in respiratory rate (>30-40 breaths per minute) or effort (particularly breathing out) may also be noticed. Symptoms may come and go or may be so mild that they go unnoticed by owners for sometime.

How is it diagnosed?

Other diseases such as bacterial infections, foreign bodies, heart disease, airway parasites and lung cancer can present with similar clinical signs and therefore these all need to be eliminated before a diagnosis of chronic small airway disease can be made.

X-rays of the chest are required and usually demonstrate evidence of thickening of the bronchial (small airways) walls and air trapping within the airways. Another diagnostic technique that can be useful is bronchoscopy in which a very small endoscope is used to view the airways. This is usually done by specialists.

Airway washes can also be collected and examined under a microscope for the presence of inflammatory cells, bacteria and cancer cells. These washes can also be cultured to assess whether bacteria are present within the lungs. Lots of inflammatory cells are usually evident in washes taken from cats with chronic small airway disease.

Treatment

  • Anti-inflammatories - Reducing the inflammation within the airways is the most important part of treatment. Corticosteroids are potent anti-inflammatories that are used to achieve this.
  • Bronchodilators - Drugs to help dilate the airways are usually used in conjunction with corticosteroids. These can also be given in the form of oral or injectable medication.
  • Mucolytics - In some cats excessive production of mucus can be a problem. Adding a mucolytic powder to the food can help in these cases.
  • Reducing exposure to irritants - Some actions can be taken in the home to reduce the severity of the signs, namely avoidance of smoking and the use of household sprays around the cat. Using a low dust type of litter may also help.