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What is Bacterial Breast Infection?

Mastitis is a breast bacterial infection that affects the mammary glands of cats that have just given birth. It can cause ailments for both the mother and her kittens. The condition is painful for new moms and life-threatening for their kittens, and this is why it is important to take your cat to the veterinarian as soon as symptoms develop.

Mastitis is a breast infection that affects a single mammary gland or multiple mammary glands in lactating cats. The infection can come on without any warning and lead to pain, swelling and loss of appetite.

Acute septic mastitis causes the milk to look clear or lumpy. This breast bacterial infection is usually localized in cats, but the condition can lead to an infection in the blood that causes the cat to become ill or septic.

Bacterial Breast Infection Average Cost

From 400 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,000

Average Cost

$400

Symptoms of Bacterial Breast Infection in Cats

Cats suffering from mastitis will show the following symptoms:

  • Heat, swelling and pain of the infected glands
  • Depression, dehydration and loss of appetite
  • Yellow, thick or bloody milk
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Refusal to let kittens nurse from the infected gland
  • Ill or dying kittens

Taking your cat to the veterinarian at the first sign of mastitis can lead to early detection and treatment.

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Causes of Bacterial Breast Infection in Cats

Mastitis is caused by ailments such as bacteria and abrasions. The bacteria involved usually includes Staphylococci, Streptococci andE. Coli. 

The following ailments are causes of mastitis:

  • Damage to the nipples due to the kittens constantly nursing
  • Bacteria entering the mammary gland due to the abrasions from the paws and teeth of the kittens
  • Infected mammary glands becoming gangrenous or developing an abscess
  • Bacteria growth after blockages occur in the milk duct
  • Another infection spreading through the bloodstream and into the mammary glands
  • Caked Breast: a build up of milk inside the breast that causes heat and pain. This condition can lead to mastitis.
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Diagnosis of Bacterial Breast Infection in Cats

You should take your cat to the veterinarian as soon as you notice any symptoms of a breast infection such as mastitis. Your veterinarian will give your cat a complete physical exam and ask questions about the symptoms. 

Your veterinarian may need to perform the following tests on your cat:

  • Bacterial culture and sensitivity of the infected liquid
  • Fluid analysis and microscopic examination of the milk or discharge
  • Aspirate and cytology of solitary masses-- The veterinarian will insert a needle to remove a sample of material.

  • Complete blood count

There is always a possibility that your cat is displaying symptoms of a systemic illness from the infection. If this happens, you veterinarian will need to perform the following additional tests:

  • X-Rays of the chest and abdominal area
  • Blood cultures
  • Urinalysis
  • A biochemical profile

There is a possibility your veterinarian will be able to diagnose the infection after a physical examination. Your veterinarian will order additional tests if your cat is not displaying enough clinical signs to make a diagnosis.

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Treatment of Bacterial Breast Infection in Cats

The treatment depends on the severity of the infections, but may include the following:

Antibiotics Therapy

Your veterinarian may prescribe broad spectrum antibiotics to your cat until they have received the bacterial culture results. They will prescribe a more appropriate antibiotic once receive the results. Your cat may also be given medication to help manage the pain, and there is a possibility the kittens may need to be given antibiotics.

Emptying The Glands

The veterinarian empties the infected mammary glands by manually expressing them to remove the infected milk. The mammary glands need to be lanced and drained, and there is a chance the veterinarian will need to lance and drain the glands surgically.

Treating Gangrenous Tissue

The necrotic material is removed from the gangrenous tissue.

Possible Additional Treatments

If your cat is systemically ill or septic, your veterinarian may need to administer intravenous fluids for several days. The veterinarian will also treat dehydration if necessary. Glands that are severely or chronically infected may need to be removed altogether.

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Recovery of Bacterial Breast Infection in Cats

Be sure you always administer antibiotics as directed by your veterinarian. You should also schedule a follow-up appointment to ensure the infection is healing. Your veterinarian may suggest applying a warm compress and expressing the gland several times a day. You may also need to reduce food intake to stop the milk production temporarily or permanently. Kittens that are still nursing will need to be given an appropriate replacement using a bottle. If your cat has suffered from mastitis in the past, then she should be prescribed an antibiotic before giving birth to future litters. This is done to prevent the infection from returning.

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Bacterial Breast Infection Average Cost

From 400 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,000

Average Cost

$400

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Bacterial Breast Infection Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Lucy

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tabby

dog-age-icon

1 Year

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Not Eating
Swollen Nipples

My cat has a litter that is 6 weeks old and we noticed yesterday that two of her breaths are swollen. She seems perfectly fine and it doesn’t seem to hurt but our local vet doesn’t open till tomorrow. Is there anything we can do from home while we wait. And should we let the kittens continue to drink from her ?

July 31, 2018

Lucy's Owner

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recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

You should not allow any kittens to nurse from the affected glands, but you could place a warm compress on the affected mammary glands which may help with a little relief but you should visit your Veterinarian in the morning for an examination and to determine whether a course of antibiotics and/or anti inflammatories is required. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 31, 2018

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Kora

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tabby

dog-age-icon

1 Year

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Pointy Nipple
Pink Nipple

My cat is 1.5 years old. She is spayed. I noticed one of her nipples feels scabby, is more projected outward almost pointy. Area is a little pink. The other one opposite is a little pink. Could it be mammary cancer

July 3, 2018

Kora's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

From your description, it does not sound like Kora has mammary cancer, but without seeing her, I can't say for sure. It would be a good idea to have her examined by a veterinarian if you are worried or notice a change in her nipples to make sure that she is okay.

July 3, 2018

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Sassy

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I don’t know. She’s grey and white and fluffy

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1 Year

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Looks Infected,
Looks Infected, Not Producing Milk

My cat had kittens about a week ago. So she’s nursing 7 kittens right now, and I noticed that her two back nipples are super red at the tip and they look like they could be infected. Also there is no milk coming out. I’m afraid that it could be feline mastitis?

June 17, 2018

Sassy's Owner

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recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

It is not unusual for glands to become inflamed and infected during nursing; you should place a warm compress on the glands as this may offer some relief and visit your Veterinarian to confirm whether or not there is an infection and to treat accordingly. In the meantime you should prevent any kittens from attempting to nurse from those glands. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 17, 2018

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Murka

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Maine Coon

dog-age-icon

13 Months

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Throwing Up, Swollen Breasts

My cat had her first litter of kittens on April 16th and has been nursing them without any problems. A few days ago we gave away the kittens and have decided to keep one. My cat still nurses that kitten from time to time. For about 2 weeks my cat would meow a lot but we just thought she might be worried about her kittens safety since she just became a mother. Today she threw up, both of her back breasts are super swollen and she’s been lying around all day and meowing.

June 6, 2018

Murka's Owner

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recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

It is possible that the sudden drop in nursing as lead to the mammary glands becoming inflamed due to being engorged with milk; you should try to apply a warm compress to the glands and ensure that she is comfortable. If there is no improvement in the swelling or overall symptoms you should visit your Veterinarian to be on the safe side. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 6, 2018

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Carmen

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Calico

dog-age-icon

10 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting

My cat has just had kittens. She had 5 total but the last one was inside of her for 10 hours compared to the others that were out within 3 hours of labor. The 5th kitten has died but now 2 other kittens has died since and my cat is throwing up and laying around. Is this a sign of infected milk.

June 1, 2018

Carmen's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Generally you would be able to tell if there is an infection of the mammary glands because they would be warm and the kittens wouldn’t want to nurse; Carmen may be vomiting due to complications of queening and it would be good to visit your Veterinarian with Carmen and the kittens to check them over in case there is an infection or something else more serious occurring. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 2, 2018

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Juanita

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We are not sure of the breed

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1 Year

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Swelling Of Breast

My cat just gave birth to 5 kittens, a few days ago two of her kittens died, but not because of mastitis, but because the room they were in was very cold. But just today I noticed that one of her 3 remaining kittens was not eating. We tried feeding it with milk from the mom and wet canned food but he didn't move a muscle. Since the mom was a stray and we took her in so she could have her babies in a safe place she tends to go outside a lot and leaves the kittens alone. When I picked her up I noticed how lumpy and swollen her nipples were and I didn't pay much attention to it until a few minutes ago when I decided to search the cause of that. Myself with the rest of the family are sure that this one kitten is going to die soon and since it's late right now, all vets are closed. We just wanted to know if we let the 2 remaining kittens drink milk from the mother or do we hand feed them.

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Croissant

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short haired

dog-age-icon

1 Year

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Swollen Teat
Mass Around Teat

I'm scared my cat has mastitis. She gave birth about a month ago and two weeks ago one of her teats is bigger while it has gone down slightly it is obviously larger than the others. I constantly feel around the teat to make sure she is doing okay but this afternoon I felt some weird mass. She is not lethargic, she feeds all her kittens, and is overall acting normal. Sometimes she is very vocal around her kittens however she still cares for them. I plan to take her to a vet as soon as the open since it is the weekend now. What could I do at this moment to make her feel better if she is in any pain?

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Honey

dog-breed-icon

American Shorthair

dog-age-icon

1 Year

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Coughing
Panting
Inflamation

Hi. My i think my 1 year old cat has an infection she shows little to no symptoms other than her bottom two nipples are inflamed and she pants more often, sometimes she will cough maybe 3 times week at most, she still eats and drinks and is very energetic and playful.

Bacterial Breast Infection Average Cost

From 400 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,000

Average Cost

$400

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