Dog Abscess: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments and More!

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person showing skin abscess on a dog

A dog abscess can make a dog owner feel woozy. Fido can be in pain, have inflammation in their tissues, and lose their feistiness. Despite all that, abscesses are more common than you may think.

Plenty of dogs get it every year, with bacteria coming into their bodies, for a variety of reasons. Some get it on their skin after getting a puncture wound while playing in the dog park. Others get it in their mouths because they have an infected tooth. Either way, it’s a treatable condition—as long as you spot it early on and take action.

Abscess Definition: What Is an Abscess?

Humans, dogs, and cats can all get abscesses. In a nutshell, an abscess is a build-up of pus. These pockets usually develop because of bacteria that come into your pup’s bloodstream. Staphylococcus pseudintermedius is one of the culprits, as is Escherichia coli, among others.

More often than not, you can spot a dog abscess upon close inspection. An infected tooth, a bite wound on their skin that got infected, or an infected bum can all cause one. You’ll see swelling, your pup will feel sore in that particular area, and you’ll likely see it grow with time.

Are They Serious?

Dog abscesses are pretty common in the United States. Where there’s a cut, there’s a doorway for bacteria to enter Fido’s body. Most abscesses are not deadly. But it’s important to get them checked out and treated as soon as possible. Otherwise, the infection could spread throughout Fido’s body and hijack the whole system.

abscess on dog paw

5 Types of Abscesses on Dogs

A dog abscess can appear pretty much anywhere. Vets talk about them depending on where they’re located. You may have heard of a tooth abscess—you may even have had one yourself! Let’s see what kinds of abscesses dogs can develop.

Skin Abscesses

The skin dog abscess is the easiest to spot. Most commonly, skin abscesses are superficial. That’s why you’ll see reddening and swelling of the skin. These kinds of infections can be small or large. It varies from case to case.

Tooth Abscess Stages

When there’s a tooth abscess, your pup will probably have trouble eating and drinking. If their cheek is swollen or red, they likely have an abscess in their mouth cavity. This happens a lot to dogs who suffer from periodontal disease. Root canal treatment is one of the most costly ways of treating these abscesses.

Anal Gland Abscess

As gross as it sounds, you should check Fido’s butt area from time to time. Especially if they’ve been licking their anus more often than before. It may be a sign that they have a dog abscess in their anal glands. If the pus in the gland isn’t drained quickly, the infection could spread. In most extreme cases, blood flow could be cut off, killing cells and leading to necrotic tissue.

Liver Abscess

Sometimes, a dog abscess can appear in Fido’s internal organs. You won’t see any swelling, but other symptoms will be there. Liver abscesses are rare, but not unheard of. It’s important to take care of these early on, to prevent a spread of the infection to the urinary tract, for instance.

Brain Abscess

This is the least common type of dog abscess you could ever come across. At the same time, it’s one of the most serious (and deadly). It happens when a serious infection in the mouth, nose, or ears goes untreated. If the infection spreads, dog owners have a big problem on their hands.

person showing abscesses on dog with comb

How to Identify the Signs and Symptoms of Dog Abscesses

Luckily, you can almost always catch a dog abscess in its earlier stages. Noticing symptoms and treatment go hand in hand:

  • Redness and irritation of a specific area (mouth, ears, nose, skin, etc)
  • A swollen area on your dog’s body that is sore to the touch
  • Skin irritation
  • Constant licking and scratching
  • Loss of appetite
  • Persistent fever
  • Lower energy levels

If you notice several of these things, Fido could have a dog abscess. Taking them to the vet is the safest course of action. They’ll know how to treat an abscess safely and effectively.

The only way to prevent a dog abscess is to check your dog’s body for cuts, bite marks, and other puncture wounds. Disinfect it correctly, and they’ll be less prone to getting a serious infection in the future. It’s all about minimizing risk factors.

The Most Common Dog Abscess Causes

When bacteria enter the body, they can lead to an infection. These pesky bacteria love endangering your dog’s health. Depending on how deep the bacteria finds its new home, an abscess can appear. As time goes on, the bacteria multiplies and the abscess grows larger.

Bite from Another Animal

Most abscesses appear after a pup gets a bite from another animal. When the “attacker” bites, they could be introducing bacteria into the puncture wound. This is what causes most skin abscesses. To lower the chances of Fido getting one, make sure they’re well socialized and know how not to get into a fight.

Chewing Mishaps

It’s no secret our canine friends love chewing everything they can get their teeth on. But sometimes they chew a little too much. If your pup breaks a tooth chewing something, they could get a tooth abscess. Or if they get a splinter stuck in their gum, they could also develop a mouth abscess.

Make sure to keep your pup’s teeth nice and healthy. Brushing their teeth may sound silly, but it’s so important!

Abscess Treatment: How to Treat an Abscess on a Dog

It’s best to leave the treatment of abscesses to the experts. Not draining the pus correctly can lead to complications that could put your pup’s life in danger.

First, your vet will likely give your pet anesthesia. Treating the inflammation is pretty painful, and dogs aren’t usually very cooperative. Then, they’ll disinfect the area. After that, the vet will lance the wound to drain the pus. Once that’s done, they’ll flush the abscess with an antimicrobial solution to kill all bacteria.

When Mr. Puppers goes home, they’ll likely be on antibiotics (e.g. clindamycin) to kill the infection. The vet could also prescribe them pain medication. That, combined with lots of rest and love, will get the healing process underway.

vet administering dog abscess treatment

When in Doubt: Take Fido to the Vet!

Has Fido been running a fever for a day or two now? Or maybe they’re not all energetic like they used to be? It could mean they have a dog abscess, even if you can’t see it. The infection could be lodged in their internal organs. When you’re not sure what’s wrong, it’s best to go see a vet.

They’ll run tests on their canine patients to see what’s up. They could even run an ultrasonography to detect the problem. Once they know what’s wrong, they’ll get down to the treatment immediately. Root canal therapy, needle aspiration, and surgery are some of the treatments for a dog abscess. They’ll also prescribe medication to get Fido in shape for their next adventure.

Common Questions on Dog Abscesses in Dogs

Is an abscess an infection?

Can a dog die because of an abscess?

I want to know how to prevent an abscess. Is it possible?

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