The subcutaneous tissue between the skin and the muscle of a dog is an ideal nutrient rich place for bacteria to grow. Foreign materials, bacteria and parasite would cause this tissue to be inflamed. This infected swelling or sac is filled with a brown, yellow or green colored liquid that is smelly and often tinged with blood. An abscess is formed when a wound heals quickly and dirt trapped beneath the skin causes an abnormality. The dog’s immune system detecting the abnormality would try to get rid of the toxic material and/or bacteria by dilating the blood vessel to increase blood flow so that more white blood cells will be sent to the affected area. When the white blood cells that are accumulated in the affected area die, pus is formed.
Abscess in the dog’s body is not common although bite wounds on the neck, ear and head as well as other puncture wounds caused by accidents may get infected and result to abscesses. Dogs are more prone to have tooth abscess and anal gland abscess. Tooth abscess forms on the upper teeth of the dog. Anal gland abscess would result if the anal gland of the dog is impacted.
Pain, swelling and redness of the affected area are the most common signs of an abscess. The hair around the lump may be missing. Also the skin around the lump may feel hot to the touch. Ruptured abscess would have a discharge and the dog would be in pain. If abscesses form on the necks and head of the dog, the dog may refuse to eat and drink, would have fever and the because of the pain the head would have an unusual tilt.
The formation of an abscess can be prevented by avoiding incidents where the dog can sustain injuries. This means keeping the pet away from aggressive dogs to eliminate the chance of dog fights. Some owners would neuter their pets to lessen the chances of fighting with other dogs. Keeping the surrounding area dog proof would reduce accidents. Prompt examination and treatment of puncture wounds would also prevent the formation of abscesses.
Warm compress applied to the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes several times a day would increase the blood flow to the swollen area. The aim is to help the immune system fight infection by increasing the numbers of white blood cells in the pus pocket.
As mentioned, pus is formed when the accumulated white blood cells in the affected area die. In some cases where the white blood cells were able to fight the source of infection, the abscess would heal without treatment. The pus that was created will be absorbed by the body. However, in most cases, the immune system failed to fight the invading cells and pus would accumulate. The fibrous capsule that holds the pus will become thin and the abscess would rupture. Pus would be discharged from the lump. The wound must be thoroughly cleaned and pus must be flushed out. Most abscesses would heal in a week and if all the pus is not flushed out, abscess would form again. Moreover, an abscess that is not properly drained would cause the bacteria infection to spread to the surrounding tissues and ultimately to the entire body through the blood stream.
Abscesses that have not ruptured would need a vet’s attention. The vet would lance the abscess and drain the pus from the lump. For this procedure the dog has to be under general anesthesia or heavily sedated. After the pus is drained disinfectant solution will be used. Antibiotics will be prescribed to aid in the healing of the wound and to prevent further infection. To prevent the dog from licking the wound an Elizabethan collar may be used.