Abscesses in Dogs

Abscesses in Dogs

Understand everything you need to about abscesses, how they form, and how they can affect your dog.

When Pooja, a college student, was on the road one day, she found a little puppy lying alone on the road, looking ill. Having always loved dogs, she couldn’t resist picking up the puppy and taking it to her apartment to feed and give it shelter. The puppy was slow to eat, and was constantly scared or relieving itself around the house. After four days, she saw no signs of improvement, but instead saw what looked like a large boil near the puppy’s ear. Worried, she took the dog to the nearest vet hospital, as she knew it had veterinarians on call. 

The dog needed a small surgery and weeks of antibiotics to make a full recovery. Pooja could not believe it. How could a small abscess have caused this much misery? Her mind was full of questions. 

What is an abscess? 

An abscess is a pus-filled “pocket” that is often found in dogs (and humans). This pocket is either pliable to the touch – because of the air inside – or is stiff and hard. These abscesses are found both inside the dog’s body and outside. It is, understandably, much harder to spot one if it’s inside the body. 

Remember that an abscess usually occurs to fight off an infection and protect the dog. It contains the infection for a while in the abscess itself. 

Abscesses are usually accompanied by fever and weakness. The pus inside smells foul when the abscess bursts. If it bursts inside the body, there is risk of further infection. 

The growth or abscess might be hot to touch. 

Why does it form in dogs?  

There are numerous reasons for abscess formation in dogs. But it is the bacteria that infects the dog that is the main cause of abscesses. Any external injury, like a dog bite, or a big scratch or accident on the road, could cause an abscess. Pus-forming bacteria is a major cause. 

Abscesses can also form if the dog chews on something hard, and an open wound inside the mouth starts to form. This is why maintaining your dog’s oral hygiene is important.

If an injury is left untreated and open to infection, it could easily lead to a growth or abscess, causing unnecessary pain for your dog. 

Dogs commonly suffer from a fever and/or lethargy when an abscess forms. 

How are abscesses treated?

Abscesses are not always a serious problem, and it can be considered on a case-by-case basis. The best way to treat an abscess is to drain the fluid or pus from the point of growth.

The main form of treatment of abscesses is through the use of antibiotics. You will have to get a recommended medication from your dog’s veterinarian. These antibiotics kill bacteria in the abscess while naturally bringing inflammation down. Of course, the doctor might recommend surgically removing the abscess, especially if it’s an external one. 

Abscesses can always return, so it is important to observe how the abscess heals over time. Sometimes, like in the case of abscesses in the anal area, the veterinarian might recommend surgery.

Neutering your dog is a great way to prevent abscesses from returning if it’s in the prostate area of the dog. 

What to do if you see an abscess on your dog

If you do manage to spot an abscess in time, take your dog to the veterinarian first. You might need to adjust diet plans and regular routines until the abscess heals. Keep your dog clean and dry, as any build-up of bacteria could just aggravate the situation further. 

An abscess can easily become painful – so consult with your veterinarian for appropriate pain medication. 

One way to help a dog’s abscess evolve and eventually heal is to do warm compresses on the abscess itself. This will help the abscess “ripen” and come to a head. Consult with a veterinarian before you do this. 

Try and keep hair from clustering around the abscess – you might need to very gently trim your dog’s hair so that bacteria doesn’t collect and make the situation worse. 

Ensure that you routinely check parts of your dog that are often missed – the gums, the teeth, in between the paws/toes, in the genital area, and so on. These are the places where abscesses can grow unnoticed. 

The information contained in VOSD Vet Advice™ is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical action which is provided by your vet. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information. For any emergency situation related to a dog’s health, please visit the nearest veterinary clinic.

Do you find this information useful? For more medical advice, visit the VOSD website.