Abscess in Dogs

An abscess is a fluid filled sac or a lump either on the surface layer of the skin or directly beneath the surface layer of the skin. This results from wounds causes by fights, from pointed objects such as thorns, nails, furniture, household items.
When the immune system detects an abnormality (caused by invading parasites, bacteria, fungus, foreign materials), it sends out more white blood cells to the affected area (to get rid of the bacteria, parasite, foreign body). Pus forms when these white blood cells die and start accumulating in the area. To avoid these dead cells getting back into the blood circulation, the immune system forms a fibrous capsule to separate these from the rest of the body. The capsule start becoming thinner as there is more accumulation, eventually tears and pus drains out of the wound.
Abscess is one of the most common conditions in dogs and without proper treatment it can predispose a dog to further abscess formation and infections.

Veterinary care is recommended for abscess which do not heal with normal treatment.


There are various causes which can lead to abscess or fluid filled sacs containing pus. About 95% result from a physical injury such as fights, wounds and scars. Parasitic invasion, bacterial infection or fungal infection on open wounds cause abscess. Skin infections are also known to trigger abscess.

Clinical Signs and Symptoms

When a dog gets injured, the first thing you will observe is behavioral change. Your dog will either act aggressive or submissive. Not doing the routine tasks, hiding away or constantly following you. Your dog will constantly lick the wound site or the area affected.

Common symptoms seen are:
› Inflammation of skin (swelling of skin)
› Dermatitis
› Alopecia (hair loss)
› Constant licking, grooming the affected site
› Redness of the skin on the affected area
› Petechia (Bruising of the skin)
› Skin allergies
› Pain
› Bad breath
› Loss of appetite
› Occasional fever
› Lethargy
› Limping
› Bleeding from the affected area


Veterinarians will require a complete medical history of your dog. This includes any previous illnesses, medicines used, alternate therapies & procedures and your dogs vaccination records. It is always recommended to describe the onset of symptoms, your dogs current diet, behavioral changes (if any), exercise / play routine and any other information which is necessary.

Diagnosis of this condition is usually done by:
› Physical Examination – A complete examination of your dog from head to toe looking for any abnormalities. Examination of wounds, skin infections, bumps and lumps.
› Complete Blood Count (CBC) Test
› Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA) Test


Most cases of abscess are treated successfully with medicated ointments or topical creams. Depending on the nature of the infection, either bacterial or fungal or antiseptic creams are suggested.

Vets will also prescribe:
› Antibiotic medications
› Antibacterial medications
› Elizabethan collar – So that your pat does not scratch, lick the wound or the infection site.
› Draining pus (fluid from the sac)
› Disinfectants, Environmental Disinfectants, cleaning agents for de-contamination.


There is no known prevention for abscess. Abscess is not really a disease but a symptom of known diseases and physical conditions such as bacterial infections, bacterial invasion on open wounds, clinical sign resulting from a physical injury. The best way to prevent abscess is to prevent injuries.
Restricting aggressive and territorial dogs to avoid fights with other animals may be a good option. Indoor pets can also have injuries from pointed objects, furniture, sudden fall (from stairs, running, chasing).

If you observe a wound, treat it immediately. Check with your veterinarian on a complete first aid kit, uses and directions.

Home Care

Almost all skin injuries and infections are treated with medicated ointments. If these treatments fail and the condition worsens (tissue gets infected with fungus, bacteria, blood gets infected), then alternate veterinary options are considered. In such cases, the wound will be cleansed, any and all abscess will be drained, infected blood will be flushed to prevent complications.

Home care should aim at improving the condition. Treatments can take anywhere between a few days to weeks depending on the type and severity of the abscess and infection. If you observe any behavioral changes, or if the condition does not improve, please contact your veterinarian.

› It is mandatory to provide a stress-free environment for your dog. Keep water and food bowls within reach. Aviod physical activity. Keep your dogs away from any noise and commotions.
› You have to administer and monitor all prescribed medicine as directed by your veterinarian.
› Do NOT travel with your dog.
› Do NOT allow your dog to roam freely, outside. This increases the risk of exposure to other infections.
› Use of environmental disinfectants is recommended after changing bandages, applying ointments and creams. Prompt disposal of any and all materials after use is suggested.
› Elizabethan collar is strongly recommended so that your dog does not lick the wound or infected area.

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