A cat that displays swollen mammary glands is suffering from mastitis. It is a condition that causes the breast tissue of the cat to become inflamed. There are a number of reasons for mastitis manifesting in a cat. They range from minor to serious. For this reason, a cat that has swollen mammary glands must be examined by a vet. He or she can provide the relevant care and treatment needed to combat the condition.
Pregnancy and glands
Pregnant cats very often develop swollen mammary glands. This is not unusual. It is caused by hormonal changes within the body. A cat that goes through what is termed a phantom pregnancy will also show signs of swollen mammary glands. In this latter scenario, the cat is not pregnant, but demonstrates many of the physical signs of pregnancy. In the cases of pregnant cats and those that are undergoing phantom pregnancies, no treatment for the swollen glands is needed.
Swelling and infection
Very often, a mother cat that is feeding her newly-born kittens will develop swollen glands. By their nature, kittens like to play. They scratch and bite, too. It is common for a kitten to aggressively bite on the nipple while feeding. A kitten may also scratch the nipple, too. Infections, including E. Coli and Streptococci, result from such aggressive behaviour at feeding time. If the milk of the mother cat takes on a thick, yellowy consistency, this is a sign that the swelling of the mammary gland is due to infection.
Signs and symptoms
A vet will be able to determine if swollen mammary glands in a cat are a cause for concern. Signs that a vet will look out for are dehydration, an unwillingness to eat, and fever. If the nipple area is noticeably hot, this will tell a vet there is a good chance that infection has set in. A vet will also take note of the possibility that the mastitis may be cancerous. Any noticeable lumps will be examined and, if necessary, biopsied.
Antibiotics and surgery
Treatment and health care for a cat with swollen mammary glands will vary significantly. If the cat is pregnant, and not showing any signs of infection, no action will be taken by the vet. When infection is present, treatment is provided via a course of prescribed antibiotics. If, in a worst case scenario, the mastitis is caused by cancer, surgery is the main option currently available. Neither radiotherapy nor chemotherapy have been shown to have any appreciable, positive effect.