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Abscesses in Rodents

By: Dr. Branson Ritchie

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An abscess is a focal accumulation of pus in a cavity formed by degenerating tissue. Abscesses form when infectious agents (bacteria, fungi or parasites) or foreign bodies lodge in tissue and cause a persistent inflammatory response. Abscesses can form in any tissue in the body and the clinical changes are determined by their location and the pressure they exert on nearby organs, the degree of toxemia that they create from their bacterial content, and the amount of tissue destroyed.

What to Watch For

  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Signs of focal irritation
  • Excessive grooming
  • Itchiness
  • Discharge
  • Moistened fur
  • Firm, painful mass
  • Drooling
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Facial swelling
  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

    Seek veterinary care immediately if a mass is noted, the mass suddenly disappears and the animal becomes acutely depressed or lethargic.

    Diagnosis

    Abscesses are easily diagnosed by finding pus on fine-needle aspiration. In addition, your veterinarian may want to do the following:

  • History and physical examination
  • Complete blood count
  • Blood chemistries
  • Cytology (microscopic evaluation of cells)
  • Biopsy and microscopic evaluation of affected tissues
  • Culture and antimicrobial sensitivity testing
  • Radiographs (X-rays)
  • Ultrasound

    Treatment

  • Surgical removal of affected tissues
  • Surgically opening and flushing the abscess
  • Systemic and local antimicrobial agents
  • Fluids and supportive nutrition

    Home Care

    Keep infected rodents in isolation during treatment. For skin abscesses, make certain that the abscess remains open so it will heal from the inside to the outside.

    On a daily basis, monitor fecal and urine output to assure proper food and water consumption and digestion, and monitor weight daily.

    Preventive Care

    Prevention is the best cure. Keep sharp objects away from your rodents, and keep your rodent's living area clean and sanitized. You should also avoid contact between rodents that may result in puncture wounds from teeth or nails.

    Prevent your companion rodent from chewing on sharp or fibrous objects that may cut the gums or inside of the mouth or that may splinter and cause penetrating wounds in the mouth. If your companion rodent is scratched or cut, see your veterinarian as soon as possible so the wound can be properly cleaned and treated.

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