Dogs are always on the lookout for their next adventure-- whether that’s digging in the garden, running at the dog park, or riding along with you in the car. Since they’re always up for play-- there’s always the potential that they can get a few bumps and scrapes along the way. Usually the cut isn’t too serious, and your pup will just continue to go on their merry way. But sometimes the cut or abrasion can be a little more serious than expected-- and may even develop into an abscess.
We’ve put together this article so you know exactly what to expect-- and what to do-- when your dog comes home with one of these. In this article we’ll examine:
- How does your dog get an abscess?
- What should you do with an abscess?
- Your dog’s healing process
How Do Dogs Get an Abscess?
What is an abscess?
First, it might be helpful to understand what exactly an abscess is-- and how does your dog get one? An abscess forms when an irritation or skin abrasion worsens, or it becomes infected-- and can be found on any part of your dog’s body. When your dog sustains an injury, there is a high probability that it will heal by itself. However, sometimes when cuts and scrapes are more serious than they look-- or have been allowed to fester unnoticed-- it can lead to the formation of of an infection. The bacteria that cause the infection will continue to inflame the skin around the wound-- eventually leading to a great deal of pain for your dog.
Your dog’s immune system will attempt to fight off the growing infection-- and typically will cause a growth in the skin that fills with this mix of bacteria and white blood cells called pus. It manifests under your dog’s skin-- and depending on the size and severity-- can be painful and uncomfortable for your pup. This type of infection should be treated immediately before it worsens or spreads to other areas of your dog.
What causes abscesses?
Since dogs are always out exploring the outside world, sometimes they can get into trouble. When they sustain a wound, these cuts can generally be put into three categories:
- Cut or scrape. These are the most common type of wound your dog might receive. They can get them from almost anything-- and depending where they are sustained-- you might need to consider taking your dog to the vet for a check.
- Puncture. These types of wounds can end up being more serious than they appear. Punctures can come from a bite-- either by another dog or animal-- or from a foreign object. They run a high risk of infection due to the fact that multiple layers of skin are pierced.
- Abrasion. Sometimes while running or digging your dog can exposure their skin to repeated rubbing-- which can end up causing a skin abrasion. These can be painful and should be closely monitored especially if the skin is broken.
When a dog sustains any of these wounds, there is always the chance for infection. If this does occur, the bacteria will begin to break down the skin surrounding the cut-- causing it to become inflamed. When pus accumulates, this leads to the formation of an abscess.
In some cases, dogs can develop an internal abscess-- most commonly in their mouth, teeth, liver and brain. These are extremely difficult to diagnose since they are the result of a localized internal infection.
Signs of an abscess
In addition to an inflamed area of skin, you should also be aware of any hair loss or obvious pain symptoms in your dog. It is common for dogs to develop a fever while they are fighting an infection, and they will mostly likely become lethargic and have less energy.
If you notice your dog attempting to bite or lick an area of skin profusely, it’s always a good idea to do a double check of their skin to make sure there are no cuts or abrasions.
What Should You Do with an Abscess?
Depending on the severity of the wound-- and if it was caught in time-- you may be able to do your own dog abscess wound care at home. It is always advised that you consult with your vet first, however, and even ask them to show you how to treat an abscess so you can do so at home-- should you need to in the future. If you’re going to treat your dog’s wound at home, make sure you are aware of the supplies you’ll need, including:
- Alcohol. Use this to sterilize your hands or anything that will come in contact with the abscess wound. This also includes anything that the secretions from the wound will touch.
- Saline solution. This will come in handy to rinse the area surrounding the wound including all the crevices of skin.
- Wound ointment. A sterile ointment, such as Fauna Care Silver Spray, that will go on after you have removed the abscess discharge.
When you have all of your supplies, now it is time to tackle the abscess. If it has not started to leak already, you can apply a warm compress to cause it to break. Be prepared to catch the discharge with another sterile towel, until it has all come out. Do not cover the wound, instead allow it to heal without applying a bandage. Most vets recommend cleaning the wound twice per day in this manner-- and to be patient. It takes a long time for a dog abscess to heal.
If you are more comfortable bringing your dog to the vet-- or the above method did not lead to any kind of improvement-- do so. It is never the wrong call to enlist the help of a professional. Whether you treat your dog’s wound or a vet does-- you will need to administer antibiotics to get rid of the infection. Make sure to follow the vet’s instructions and administer them to your dog until the bottle is used up.
If your dog’s abscess is particularly severe, it may be required to undergo surgery to have it removed. If the abscess happens to manifest in a tooth-- it will require that the tooth is removed as well. Typically your vet will do an examination of the problem, and may order additional lab tests to be certain there is no sign of the abscess spreading internally. This will also confirm the type of bacteria that has caused this particular abscess wound. If there is a risk that the infection could spread to the blood-- blood will need to be drawn and taken to the lab.
Abscesses are removed surgically by opening the wound and allowing it to drain. The wound will then be thoroughly cleaned and either bandaged or a wound ointment will be applied. Either way, this should help get your dog out of the most dangerous part of the bacterial infection. Depending on the size, location, and level of infection-- you and your vet can work together to get your dog on the path to healing in no time.
The Healing Process
After you and you vet have treated the abscess wound, your pup is going to need a lot of time to heal. You’ll need to keep a close eye on the wound, and continue to treat it by cleaning it and giving the prescribed medication to your dog. During this time, your dog might have to wear a cone to prevent them from biting or licking their open wound as it heals. It is also helpful to keep them as comfortable as possible, and to make sure they are eating and hydrating appropriately. Sometimes vets will recommend that you limit their activity and allow the wound time to heal.
Eventually the bacterial infection will be killed off with the antibiotics and the skin around the wound will begin to heal. This is all part of the healing process-- the skin will repair itself and your pup’s fur will begin to grow back as well. There may even be scab formation as well-- which is all a normal and means the wound is starting to heal. This scab may give way to a scar-- but this may even disappear with time. You’ll notice that their energy level has increased, and they may start to display some of their old behavioral traits. This is a great sign and it means that the abscess is on the mend, and they will back to their old selves in no time.
If your dog develops a skin abscess, you may be able to treat them at home-- just make sure to use sterile equipment and to be patient. If your dog’s wound is particularly serious, it is better to visit your vet instead. Either way, your pup will thank you for your quick thinking and they’ll be on the road to recovery sooner rather than later.