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.
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
- 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.
Causes of Bacterial Breast Infection in Cats
Mastitis is caused by ailments such as bacteria and abrasions. The bacteria involved usually includes Staphylococci, Streptococci and E. 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.
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
- 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.
Treatment of Bacterial Breast Infection in Cats
The treatment depends on the severity of the infections, but may include the following:
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.
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.
Bacterial Breast Infection Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My cat gave birth to 4 kittens 6 weeks ago. She's not lethargic or have lost of appetite however she has some swollen glands it seems. Her breasts seem to be enlarged in a strange way. She is still eating she does not seem depressed and the kittens have been weaned. If the kittens do however try to feed from her she still lets them. I'm concerned that there may be some mastitis in her mammary glands.
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My 10yrs old unspayed cat (didn't give birth recently) has a swollen/inflamed or infected breast/nipple with smelly drainage. I noticed the smell a few weeks ago and that's also when she started peeing around the house. But didn't see what was happening to her until suddenly she became very ill. She became very sluggish and panting a lot and seems to be losing weight rapidly although she still eats and drinks plenty. I've been giving her amoxicillin about 5 days now but doesn't seem to be working. I cannot afford to have the vet run more tests to find out what it is exactly that she's suffering from. It could be mastitis or cancer. She's still in good spirits and although gets tired quickly and has to rest, she walks around to get water and food or lay in the sun. I am so heartbroken to see her like this and also feel tremendously guilty that my financial situation is causing her such pain and agony. She's been a very clean cat all her life. Always grooming herself. But now she doesn't even clean her face and she might even be urinating on herself (most likely from the pain, not from not being able to control it).
Please, give me your professional opinion on: 1. If it's cancer or mastitis, at this stage as described, is it still treatable with simple surgery and antibiotics? If so, 2. Will full recovery be expected or will it still be wait and see after the treatments? 3. At this stage, as described above, I know she's suffering. Is euthanasia be a better and humane option that I can give to her right now?
From the description you have described (with lethargy, panting, weight loss and increased thirst) it is possible that there is pain or the infection has spread from the breast; if this is the case a more potent antibiotic may be required. Infection can be present in cases of mammary tumours and may add to the complications. If the ‘problem’ (infection and or cancer) is confined to the breast then aggressive treatment or surgical removal may be beneficial; once an infection or tumour spreads systemically then the prognosis is less favourable. Without examining Mami or having results of culture and sensitivity for infection it isn’t possible to determine a prognosis based on different treatment as we aren’t aware of the severity. The final decision whether to euthanize should be discussed with your Veterinarian as I haven’t examined Mami and I am unable to make a recommendation. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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This morning my cat who just had kitties a week ago was experiencing symptoms of mastitis with one nipple area being hard. Took her to the vet and they gave her an antiobiatict shot. We came back home she feed the kittens after about 2 hours then went back to laying by herself in another room. Is it safe that the kittens drank her milk? Will she feed them or should I feed them ?
If only one teat is affected and your Veterinarian didn’t advise you to stop breastfeeding then there shouldn’t be a problem, just don’t allow nursing on that teat. A warm compress may help with the pain and discomfort offering some relief. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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