What is an Abscess?

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An abscess is a pocket of infection that gets trapped underneath the skin. When bacteria enters a wound, the body sends white blood cells to fight it off. The cells and the bacteria form a thick, foul smelling fluid known as pus. Normally, the pus drains from the wound, removing infection from the body.

If the skin heals faster than the rest of the wound, or the skin wound itself is small with a deep tissue injury (such as in a bite wound), the infection may not be able to escape. The result is usually a painful swelling of infection under the skin.

There are a number of types of abscesses that dogs can get including:

Tooth Abscess: When a tooth becomes broken or a dog has severe dental disease, pockets of infection can form under the gums or at the root of the tooth.

Wounds: Bite wounds and other puncture wounds are the most common forms of abscesses. The small entrance wound makes it hard for infection to drain out.

Anal Glad Abscesses: Some dogs are prone to problems expressing their anal glands, located on either side of the anus. Occasionally these glands may become infected and unable to drain.

Ears: Wounds on the ear flaps sometimes cause a hematoma, or a blood filled pocket between the skin and the cartilage of the ear. Infection can cause the pocket to become an abscess.

Any type of wound that becomes infected has the potential to become an abscess. Left untreated, it can be painful and make your pet feel sick. It can also lead to a fever, reduced appetite and lethargy. An abscess that is not draining may be hard to spot on dogs with thick coats. In general, the first thing that owners notice with a draining abscess is a bad smell. If you suspect an abscess, or your pet is behaving abnormally, contact your veterinarian immediately.

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