What Is An Abscess on a Dog?
A dog abscess is a cavity that forms somewhere in the body. In most cases, trauma to the skin such as a dog bite or other puncture wound introduces bacteria under the skin. The body’s immune system then sends extra white blood cells to the area in an attempt to rid the body of the bacteria. Pus is formed when the white blood cells die and accumulate in the affected area.
The immune system also walls off the abscess by forming a fibrous capsule around it. This keeps the pus confined to one area. Over time, the wall of the capsule grows thin and ruptures. Then the pus drains out.
Sometimes an abscess is able to heal without any medical treatment. In these instances, the white blood cells are able to kill the bacteria. The accumulated pus is then absorbed by the body.
In most cases, however, veterinary care is needed.
Types of Abscesses in Dogs
Abscesses can form in many parts of your dog's body including:
- Dog Bite Wound Abscess
- Dog Tooth Abscess
- Dog Brain Abscess
- Head and Neck Abscess
- Ear Abscess
- Anal Sac Abscess
- Mammary Glands
Canine Abscess Symptoms
Symptoms of dog abscesses include:
- swelling at the wound site
- drainage from
- limping if on the foot
If the abscess has not ruptured there will be no drainage, just a lump. Hair may fall out around the injured area. Abscesses are usually quite painful, as well. Your dog may try to lick or bite at the injured area. (Don’t let him do this, as it will probably make things worse).
Source: Washington State University, Dr. Barbara Stein
Dog Abscess Diagnosis
Your veterinarian can generally diagnose a dog abscess just by looking at the wound. If the abscess has not ruptured, the vet may insert a needle into the lump and withdraw some fluid using aspiration to ascertain that there is indeed pus in the lump. If the abscess has ruptured, it is easy to see that there is an abscess there. A biopsy can also confirm the presence of any abnormal tissue.
To diagnose an abscess in other areas of the body blood or urine tests may be required.
Imaging tests such as X-Rays, ultrasound echocardiography, CT scans or a MRI may be needed for issues such as a brain abscess, heart abscess or to find a foreign object in a mass.
When diagnosing an abscess, a veterinarian will need to rule out other conditions such as:
- cysts (grow slower, sometimes painful)
- Fibrous scar tissue (not painful, scar tissue)
- Granuloma (not as painful)
- Seroma or Hematoma (grows quiklcy, but once at full size it becomes unattached to surrounding tissue)
- Neoplasia (painful)
Canine Abscess Treatment
Abscess treatment depends on the location. For abscesses caused by bites, the dog can be treated on an out patient basis. If sepsis has set in, then the dog may have to be admitted to the veterinary hospital for treatment and surgery in order to remove infected areas and to maintain wound drainage.
If the abscess has not yet ruptured, it will have to be lanced so that pus can drain from the wound. This may require general anesthesia or at least heavy sedation for your dog.
Once the abscess has ruptured and is draining, it can be flushed with a disinfectant solution such as povidone iodine or chlorhexidine to clean the area and remove any remaining pus.
Antibiotics will be prescribed to help fight infection. Ask your veterinarian about any activity restrictions after treatment.
If surgery is required the veterinarian will use general anesthesia.
You can apply warm compresses several times a day to help increase blood flow to the area. This will draw white blood cells to the area, which will help fight infection and promote healing.
Don’t let your dog lick or chew at the wounded area. If he is persistent about doing so, you may need to use an Elizabethan collar (those conical collars that make your pet look like a satellite dish) to prevent him from reaching the injured area.
Dog Ruptured Anal Gland Abscess Treatment
There are three stages of anal sac disease. The third stage results in the rupturing of the anal glad where it ruptures through the skin resulting in an oozing red hole. The location of the hole is next to the dog's anus. Treatment may require surgery if the abscess has not ruptured. Surgery will be used to clean the area and drain any liquid. After surgery a topical ointment is applied to the skin to avoid any infection.
Future problems are prevent by expressing the anal sacs every couple of weeks. Dietary change to a high fiber diet might also help.
The prognosis depends on the location of the abscess and the amount of tissue that has been disturbed. The question of if an abscess can kill a dog depends on the location and severity of the condition.
Skin abscesses can be avoided by eliminating risks such as fighting with other pets.
Anal sac abscesses can be prevented by avoiding impaction. If the problem persists, consider removing the one or both sacs with an anal sacculectomy.
For prostate abscesses, castration may help.
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Brochure on the three stages of dog anal sac infections including dog ruptured anal gland abscess treatment.