Abscesses (Infected Wounds) in Dogs
Definition of an Abscess
An abscess is a localized pocket of pus contained in a walled-off cavity, usually just under a dog’s skin (although they can develop internally). Abscesses frequently are associated with scratches, bites, puncture wounds or other skin surface abrasions. Bacteria enter the site of the wound, multiply and start digesting the healthy surrounding tissue, causing inflammation and an infection. The byproduct of this process is the thick, yellowish substance commonly called “pus.” As they enlarge and harden, abscesses put pressure on nearby tissues and nerves and can be extremely painful, especially when they rupture. The infection can spread through the blood to other parts of a dog’s body, leading to systemic illness. This can cause a potentially life-threatening condition called “sepsis.” Owners should familiarize themselves with the causes and signs of abscesses, so that they can get treatment for their affected dogs as quickly as possible.
Most abscesses in domestic dogs are caused by the invasion of healthy tissue by bacteria. Occasionally, abscesses are caused by fungal or protozoal microorganisms or even by parasitic worms, which are called “helminths.” One of the most common ways that dogs develop abscesses is when bacteria are inoculated under their skin through a bite wound, puncture, scratch, cut or other skin surface abrasion. The bacteria multiply inside the wound and start to digest and break
How an abscess will affect a dog depends primarily upon its location and size. Large internal abscesses may put pressure on nearby organs and tissues, which can be extremely painful. Even small or superficial skin abscesses can hurt a great deal; anyone who has ever had an inflamed, infected pimple knows how painful they can be. Dogs with skin abscesses often lick and chew at the affected areas, which can exacerbate the pain, spread the
Most skin abscesses are easy to see, especially once they rupture and start to drain, but they may be difficult to detect in long-haired, heavily-coated breeds. Superficial abscesses are usually walled-off inside a protective fibrous capsule and feel firm, but somewhat squishy to the touch; at least before they rupture. Internal abscesses, such as those in the pancreas, lungs, liver or other organs, cannot be identified without more advanced techniques. A veterinarian presented with a
The overriding goals of treating abscesses in dogs are to drain the wound, clear up the infection, relieve pain and remove any identifiable foreign objects that may have caused or contributed to the wound and infection in the first place.Most external abscesses can be treated successfully on an outpatient basis. Only in very severe cases will in-patient hospitalization be necessary, such as in cases of mammary gland abscessation in a lactating bitch. Most veterinarians will