Dog Abscess Home Care and Prevention

A dog abscess can develop very quickly and, if left, could cause your dog major health problems. Therefore it is important to check your dog regularly for signs of abscesses or other health issues. The majority of abscesses will disappear on their own or with prescribed antibiotics. However, some will need to be lanced by a vet.

What Are Abscesses?

Abscesses are a collection of pus within a cavity. The fluid inside an abscess is a collection of white blood cells. They attack bacteria and, as they die, they become pus. This collection of fluid could be under the skin, around an organ such as the brain or the lungs, in an oral cavity, in prostate, anal or mammary glands and eyes. The latter three are more common in dogs than other types. Abscesses develop quickly and are usually painful. They are hard to the touch and may also have a bad-smelling discharge.

How Are Dog Abscesses Caused?

A dog abscess can have a number of underlying causes. These include:

  • Bacteria like Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Pseudomonas and E.coli, which can live on your dog's skin
  • Foreign objects, such as a splinter
  • Wounds
  • Dog bites

If a wound becomes infected, your dog's body will send extra white blood cells to the area to fight the infection. As these die they form pus. Your dog's body also creates a capsule around the infected area to try and prevent it spreading elsewhere in the body. The enclosed area of infection becomes an abscess.

Preventing Dog Abscesses

The majority of abscesses can be prevented. Although abscesses can be caused by underlying illness, your dog is most likely to develop an abscess after chewing something or suffering a wound. For instance, wood can easily splinter, leaving tiny shards in your dog's mouth, which then become infected.

To try and prevent your dog from developing an abscess, the following steps can be taken:

  • Keep your dog's teeth clean.
  • Make sure your dog can't get to and chew on items that might cause damage to his mouth (for instance, pieces of wood which could splinter).
  • Keep any healing skin wounds as clean as possible.

If your dog suffers a new wound, make sure it is treated properly. If it is superficial, you can apply antibacterial ointment yourself but if it is deeper, it should be looked at and treated by a vet.

Caring for Dog Abscesses at Home

Some abscesses will heal on their own. However, abscesses are infections and if it is causing your dog discomfort or pain, it's a good idea to have it looked at by a vet. Whether you decide to seek your vet's advice or not, there are a few things you can do at home to help the abscess heal as quickly as possible.

  • Keep the area around the abscess clean using salt water or anti-bacterial cream.
  • Don't let your dog lick, scratch or bite at the area, as this will increase the chance of bacteria. If necessary, you can buy a conical collar, which will prevent him from reaching the affected area.
  • Apply a warm compress to the wound every day. This increases the blood flow to the area and therefore brings more white blood cells to fight the infection.

Abscesses can be distressing for your dog but with the right care they usually heal within two weeks, allowing him to continue with life as normal.