Where did that lump come from?

By DR. FRED SELF / Veterinarian

Many times while petting their cats, people find unexpected lumps. There are several possible causes of lumps on cats.

The cause that seems to develop lumps with the greatest speed is a cat bite. It is difficult to tell the difference between the various lumps. In fact, unless the lump ruptures or a test is performed to determine what the lump is made of, all lumps appear the same.

The following is the process used to determine if the lump is caused by a cat bite and the process used to treat it.

A lump caused by a cat bite is actually an abscess. The abscess is able to form rapidly due to the growing population of bacteria and the body’s production of white blood cells used to fight off the bacteria. The combination of white blood cells and bacteria is known as pus. As more pus is formed the lump grows bigger.

The easiest way to identify a lump caused by a cat bite is to see the bite. Sometimes the original bite wound is seen at the time of the bite. Other times the hair over the lump must be shaved off. Once the hair has been removed, there can be anywhere from one to four small round scars seen. The scars are what remain of puncture wounds caused by canine teeth.

Having identified the lump as a cat bite or bite wound abscess, the next step is to open the abscess.

Often opening an abscess requires sedation, because the abscess itself can be painful and the small incision required may be uncomfortable. In some patients one or more of the round scars may be trying to weaken and allow rupture. In this case sedation, may not be required as the skin is abnormal and likely contains few pain receptors.

After the abscess is opened, it is drained and then flushed. Draining the abscess removes some of the bacteria and the white blood cells, both of which can cause the cat to be sick. By flushing the remaining space more of the bacteria is removed. The incision used to drain and flush the abscess remains open to allow continued drainage. Oral antibiotics and anti-inflammatories are used to provide ongoing treatment for an extended period.

Cat bite or bite wound abscesses should be considered anytime a fast-growing lump is found on a cat.

Dr. Fred Self is a veterinarian at Shelbiana Animal Clinic in Columbiana, along with Dr. Charles Thornburg. You can reach them at 669-7717.