Mammary gland infections in cats

I saw a particularly interesting case in small practice last Friday. It was a cat with a severe case of mastitis.

The cat came in looking very unhappy indeed, staying completely still when it was not being handled. The reason for this soon became apparent: one of its cranial abdominal glands was horribly swollen and pussing, most probably due to a case of mastitis left untreated for far long. So that the vet could examine it, I had to hold it up by the shoulders as touching the wound would have been far too painful. Luckily, the other glands were unaffected so it looked unlikely to be fatal, so the nurses put the cat on fluids and antibiotics and Metacam overnight.

The nurse genuinely felt for the poor cat, reluctant to lift its foreleg sideways to insert the catheter knowing that stretching the skin must be so painful for her. It was obvious that this was the case as the only movement it made was to move its leg back in wherever possible. It did show me how quickly infections can spiral out of control if ignored… the owner certainly realised the same thing, just a little too late! She looked incredibly guilty, so much so that she began to cry uncontrollably when she tried to describe when she first spotted it etc. This must be one of the hardest things for a vet to deal with; there seems to be a fine line between comforting an owner and sounding patronizing. This particular vet seems to just always keep calm and relaxed. In fact, his demeanour didn’t change at all, he just offered her a tissue.

This was such a contrast to the mastitis case in a heifer I saw at Morrisons’ Farm. Its such a common condition there that, aside from the daily udder-emptying and antibiotic injections, they just go about their daily lives, whereas for a cat it is obviously more serious due to their size. One thing that really does get on my nerves, though, are owners who ignore conditions that are clearly problematic, hoping they will just disappear. My friend saw a similar case in a rabbit, except the wound was maggot infected and it never recovered. Those owners were reported to the RSPCA. I suppose that’s the trouble with the common fear of vet bills; people don’t seem to realise the extent of their responsibility to their pets. So many dogs come in with gingivitis because owners couldn’t be bothered to take them for their checkups. If they were more systematic they would realise that they would save themselves money as dentals can be expensive, but the same problems seem to recur!