When an infection enters the body, white blood cells rush to the site and fight the invading bacteria. Sometimes this collection of blood cells forms a pocket of pus - or an abscess - within the bodys tissues, organs, or confined spaces.
In dogs, abscesses can form in several key areas. Subcutaneous abscesses, which are the most common, lie just below the skin and are caused by a traumatic wound or foreign body. Abscesses also can form around your pets teeth roots and anal sacs. Occasionally, they form in a male pets prostate gland or a females mammary glands.
Risk Factors and Detection
A subcutaneous abscess forms at a puncture wound, usually sustained during a fight, so this type of abscess often affects free-roaming dogs. Pets with gingivitis are prone to tooth root abscesses. Anal sac abscesses are common in dogs who suffer chronic anal sac impaction, and unspayed or unneutered dogs are more susceptible to mammary or prostate gland abscesses.
A suppressed immune system also makes dogs susceptible to abscesses. Some common causes are diabetes mellitus and Cushings syndrome, and medical treatments such as chemotherapy and steroids.
Abscess symptoms vary. A subcutaneous abscess usually appears as a warm, soft lump under the skin that may be painful to the touch. When an abscess ruptures, you might only find a draining hole in the skin. Many dogs with a subcutaneous abscess feel lethargic and feverish.
Most dogs suffering a tooth root abscess have swelling or a small draining wound below the eye, and they may experience appetite loss or difficulty eating.
If your dog licks frequently at his rear end or the area seems inflamed, youre likely dealing with an abscessed anal sac. Your dog may have a draining wound adjacent to his anus, and he may strain to defecate or scoot his bottom on the ground.
A dog with a prostatic abscess also will strain to urinate or defecate, and he may excrete blood or pus in the urine. A mammary gland abscess may appear swollen, warm, and painful, and it may be draining.
Your veterinarian can diagnose most abscesses just by feeling them or extracting some fluid, either manually or with a needle. She may order additional tests - including blood tests, bacterial cultures, a urinalysis, X-rays, or sonograms - to detect prostatic or tooth root abscesses and underlying immune system disorders. These test results also help your veterinarian prescribe the proper treatment.
Prevention and Treatment
Regular vaccinations and examinations, a balanced diet, and plenty of exercise keep your dog and his immune system in optimum shape.
Spaying or neutering your dog early in life can prevent prostatic or mammary gland abscesses because these glands become inactive after surgery. Routine dental cleanings and home dental care reduce the risk of a tooth root abscess.
If your dog scoots on the ground or his anal area seems painful or inflamed, ask your veterinarian to check him and manually release any anal sac secretion. If your dog experiences chronic anal sac disease, your veterinarian may recommend surgically removing them to prevent abscesses.
Subcutaneous abscesses are the hardest to prevent. Confining your dog indoors or in a yard curbs fighting, and neutering male dogs reduces the aggressiveness that leads to fighting.
When treating an abscess, your veterinarians first goal is to get the pus out. This often means lancing and draining the abscess. Some abscesses also require temporary drain tubes.
Treating prostatic abscesses often involves surgery. If your dog has an abscessed tooth root, your veterinarian will extract the unhealthy tooth.
Once the abscess drains, your dog needs oral antibiotics for about two weeks to prevent recurring infection.