If your dog has received a bite or puncture wound, there’s a chance an abscess could develop; however, they can also occur when there is no visible entry point, such as a dental or anal gland abscess, so it’s important to investigate any sore patches or swellings thoroughly. As always with your pet’s health, if you’re concerned, please contact your local veterinarian, but for minor abscesses, there are certain treatments you can carry out at home.
What is an abscess?
An abscess is a pocket of infection that develops under the skin, causing moderate to severe pain, redness, and swelling. They can occur anywhere on the body, even in the mouth, when a tooth becomes infected. The anal glands, or sacs, situated at the 5 and 7 o’clock position of the dog’s anus can also become blocked and develop an abscess, especially in dogs that are not neutered or spayed. Pus is produced inside the abscess, causing the dog to be in pain; they may also appear quieter than normal, be off their food, and generally under the weather.
If not treated and the pus drained, the abscess will continue to grow until it bursts out of the skin, potentially leaving a quite sizeable hole behind. In severe cases, the abscess forms a tract inside the body, and instead of draining out, the pus is absorbed into the bloodstream, leading to blood poisoning.
In some cases, the abscess requires antibiotics to clear up any infection, so a trip to your local veterinarian clinic is necessary.
Signs of an abscess
There are several signs to look out for when deciding if your dog has an abscess, and these vary depending on where it is located. Generally, the symptoms include:
Inflammation and redness
The skin may feel hot at the abscess site
Your dog may yelp, or appear uncomfortable when you gently press around the site. Be careful, however, as a dog that’s in pain can snap
Licking or chewing excessively at the abscess, potentially leading to a bald patch
Bleeding or oozing pus, which can be smelly
Lethargy, appetite loss or fever
If the abscess is located around the root of a tooth, the dog may paw and rub his face
An anal gland abscess can often be detected by your dog rubbing his buttocks along the ground, or reaching around and licking or chewing at the area
How to treat an abscess
Depending on the stage the abscess is at, its severity and where the abscess is located, they can be treated successfully at home; however, if you are in any doubt, your dog has a fever, or the abscess is increasing in size, with no signs of bursting, you should contact your veterinarian immediately. Dental abscesses always require the attention of your vet.
If your dog allows it, a warm compress can encourage an abscess to burst. Ensure the compress isn’t too hot, and gently hold it against the swelling for a few minutes several times a day. If the abscess doesn’t appear to be reaching the point of discharge, again, contact your local vet.
When the abscess has burst, and if the remaining wound isn’t too big or deep, it can be treated like any other wound.
Carefully trim the hair away from the wound, ensuring that no stray hairs can contaminate it further
Using a needle-less syringe and sterile saline solution, flush out the wound. A saline solution is a weak salt water solution. Boil the kettle and allow it to cool slightly, before pouring some into a clean bowl. Add a little salt – approximately one teaspoon to one large cup of water, and, making sure the salt has dissolved completely, fill the syringe.
You may need to do this several times to ensure the wound is thoroughly clean
Then rinse the wound with an antiseptic solution, and gently dab dry using a clean, lint-free cotton pad
Apply antibacterial cream to the wound
Repeat this process 2-3 times a day until the wound has healed
Remember to give your dog a treat every time so that he associates receiving a reward with lying still while you treat his abscess
Your dog may well worry at the wound, licking it and creating further irritation. If so, an Elizabethan collar is a great idea as this prevents him from getting to the wound. The wound should begin looking better within a day or two; however, if you’re concerned, please contact your veterinarian clinic.
This is a great video, with lots of helpful advice for treating your dog’s abscess at home: