Abscesses in Dogs: Symptoms and Treatment
What to Do If Your Dog Has an Abscess
My 5-year-old Border Collie dog was diagnosed with an abscess. Karma's left side continued to swell over the course of a few days and I was afraid that she had some type of intestinal blockage or tumor, but the veterinarian thought that the abscess might have been caused by an insect bite. After taking a radiograph and seeing that the swelling was all outside of her rib cage, the veterinarian took a small biopsy of the lump and discovered the area had pus in it.
He put her on antibiotics and a pain killer and sent her home. The follow-up instructions were to bring her back in ten days for a recheck, but within two days, her abscess came to a head and drained. Four days later, she was healing well and on the road to recovery.
Below, I've included the causes, symptoms, and routine treatment for a dog abscess and things you can do to help your dog through this traumatic time. Keep in mind, abscesses in a dog can be extremely painful, so don't be surprised by the behavioral changes in your pet.
Causes of Abscesses in Dogs
The causes of an abscess on your dog can be related to any of the following:
- animal bites
- bacteria in a wound
- insect bites
- more serious bites such as a snake bite (see your vet immediately)
Symptoms of Abscesses in Dogs
- loss of appetite
- a hard lump that comes on suddenly
- increased licking of one area
- behavioral changes
- pain/painful to the touch
- drainage from the wound
- loss of hair around the lump
If the abscess has not yet ruptured, you will just see a lump without any drainage.
How Are They Treated?
If the abscess has not yet ruptured, your veterinarian may take a "wait and see" approach like mine did and put your dog on antibiotics to fight the infection (Karma was prescribed Cephalexin 500 mg, twice a day). Pain killers may be also be given to lessen your dog's pain (Karma was put on Meloxicam once daily).
How Are They Diagnosed?
The veterinarian can take a sample of the abscess by withdrawing pus from the area to find out what type of bacteria is causing the infection. If the abscess has not ruptured, you can put warm compresses on the area to bring the abscess to a head. Some abscesses may even go down and be reabsorbed into the dog's body without rupturing. If the abscess starts to drain, call your veterinarian for advice.
If it ruptures and drains:
- Get clean towels and wear gloves when cleaning up the fluid.
- If you choose to, gently squeeze the area that is draining. It may open up and start to ooze. Make sure you keep the site clean and that it drains in a clean environment.
- Don't let the dog lick the area. This can introduce more bacteria and will take the wound longer to heal.
- Put a collar on your dog to stop him/her from licking the area if possible.
- Clean the wound with a vet-approved disinfectant like diluted chlorhexidine solution.
- Keep your dog in a calm and clean area. You can dab the site with clean gauze to catch any more drainage.
- Make sure you give your dog the full round of antibiotics as prescribed.
If the abscess does not rupture on its own, your vet may be needed to lance it. A drain will be inserted into the site to let the pus drain out. If it has already ruptured, your veterinarian may advise you to follow the aforementioned steps. Best of luck and share your story below.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2012 Dorsi Diaz