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Abscess in Dogs: Symptoms, Treatment and Drainage

Updated on March 4, 2013

Causes of dog abscess

My 5 year old border collie dog was diagnosed with an abscess recently. The vet thought that the abscess might have been caused by an insect bite like a possible spider bite. Karma's left side had swollen up suddenly over the course of a couple days and I was afraid that she had some type of intestinal blockage or tumor. After taking an X-ray and seeing that the swelling was all outside of her rib cage, the vet 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 instructions were to bring her back in 10 days for a recheck but within 2 days her abscess came to a head, drained and now 4 days later, she is healing well and on the road to recovery. Below you will find the causes, symptoms and treatment for a dog abscess and things you can do to help your dog through this traumatic time. Abscesses in a dog can be extremely painful, so don't be surprised by the behavioral changes in your pet.

Causes of an abscess on your dog can be related to any of the following:

  • animal bites
  • punctures
  • bacteria in a wound
  • insect bites
  • more serious bites such as a snake bite (see your vet immediately)

Symptoms of dog abscesses can include:

  • redness
  • loss of appetite
  • swelling
  • a hard lump that comes on suddenly
  • listlessness
  • increased licking of one area
  • behavioral changes
  • fever
  • painful to the touch
  • drainage from the wound
  • loss of hair around the lump

If the abscess has not yet ruptured there will be no drainage, just a lump.

Treatment of dog abscess:

If the abscess has not yet ruptured, your vet may take a "wait and see" approach like mine did and put your dog on antibiotics to fight the infection (Karma was put on Cephalexin 500 mg twice a day) Some abscesses may go down and be reabsorbed into the dogs body without rupturing, The vet can take a biospy of the abscess by withdrawing pus from the area to find out what type of bacteria is causing the infection. Pain killers may be given to lessen your dogs pain (Karma was put on Melixocam once a day for the pain)

If the abscess has not ruptured you can put warm compresses on the area to bring the abscess to a head and help fight the infection. If the abscess starts to drain you can call your vet for advice or do the following:

  • Get clean towels, wear gloves and have some hydrogen peroxide handy.
  • Gently squeeze the area that is draining. It may open up and start to ooze. Make sure you keep the abscess clean and drain it in a sterile 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.
  • After the pus has been drained, leave the wound open to further drain.
  • Clean the wound with hydrogen peroxide or a disinfectant solution such as povidone iodine or chlorhexidine.
  • Keep your dog in a calm and clean area. You can also put a light gauze bandage on the open area to catch any more drainage.
  • Make sure you give your dog the full round of antibiotics.

If the abscess does not rupture on it's own, surgery may be needed to lance the abscess and a drainage tube will be inserted to let the pus drain out. If the dogs abscess has already ruptured your vet will advise you to do most if not all of these things.

@Copyright Dorsi Diaz 2012

Photo of a dog abscess

This is Karma's abscess after 4 days - healing well. Dogs can get abscesses by getting bit by insects, among other things.
This is Karma's abscess after 4 days - healing well. Dogs can get abscesses by getting bit by insects, among other things. | Source


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  • Nell Rose profile image

    Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

    Poor little thing, but a really great video. Its amazing how a spider or even a midge can cause that. great info and it was good to see it up close like that so that anybody else with a dog or another animal can see exactly what it is and what to do, voted up! cheers nell

  • profile image

    KDuBarry03 5 years ago

    I am so happy Karma is doing much better after the abscess has been drained! She is such a sweet dog, from your videos. I am glad everything is okay now :)


  • Dorsi profile image

    Dorsi Diaz 5 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area

    @Nell) Thanks for the feedback. I really appreciate it. Karma is on the mend and back to her sweet spunky self.

    @KD) Thank you so much!

  • Jools99 profile image

    Jools99 5 years ago from North-East UK

    Excellent video and so pleased she's on the mend!

  • Dorsi profile image

    Dorsi Diaz 5 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area

    Thanks Jools!

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