An abscess in dogs occurs when an infection develops in a part of the body that is capable of opening into a pocket. Most commonly, it occurs under the skin as a result of a puncture wound. Elsewhere, an abscess can also develop where there is a space that can become a pocket. An example is the area around a tooth root.
Abscess "pockets" are filled with pus, which is in essence an accumulation of dead bacteria and dead white blood cells that have been mobilized by the body to the area in order to inhibit and eliminate bacterial growth.
The abscess is actually a result of the body's attempt to limit the infection to a local area. The pocket is formed so that the bacteria and infection cannot spread and affect the rest of the body.
One or two things may happen to an abscess. If the inflammatory cells (white blood cells) can fight off the invading bacteria, the body will absorb the pus gradually and the abscess will heal eventually without any treatment.
On the other hand, if the inflammatory cells cannot clean up the infection on their own, the pus will accumulate, putting increasing pressure on the skin and eventually causing the abscess to rupture.
In most cases, because of the rupture, the pus will drain to the outside of the body. This facilitates the elimination of the infection.
In rare occasions, the rupture may drain into a body cavity (e.g. the abdomen), in which case immediate medical treatment is required.
Sometimes, an abscess keeps draining but does not heal (called a fistula). The most common reason why it does not heal is that there is some kind of foreign object (such as wood splinters, grass seeds, etc.) in the tissue. In order for the wound to heal, the foreign object has to be removed.
An abscess in dogs can cause the following symptoms:
Most smaller abscesses can be safely treated at home. But you should seek veterinary treatment if:
Abscesses happen more frequently in cats than in dogs, and cats can generally handle abscesses better than dogs.
Most abscesses in dogs are due to puncture wounds (from dog or cat fights for example). An abscess in dogs can also be caused by foxtails or plant awns that get trapped in the hair and work their way through the skin. This usually happens on the dog's feet, between the toes; sometimes in or around the ears and between the hind legs.
Although abscesses in dogs look serious (especially when pus is draining out), in most cases they are manageable at home with the help of natural remedies such as herbal and homeopathic remedies.
Here is what you can try:
If you have pure organic apple cider vinegar, you can add a teaspoon or so of ACV to the warm water and use the vinegar water to make a warm compress.
You may also want to use a tincture of the herb Plantain as a compress to draw out infections and/or foreign bodies from the abscess.
In addition, flush the wound with a solution of Calendula and St.-John's wort in saline. (Boil a cup of water to sterilize it. Let cool. Add 10 drops each of the tinctures of Calendula and St. John's Wort plus one-fourth teaspoon of table salt.)
Use a syringe to gently flush out the wound. Repeat three to four times a day until you can see that the wound is healing.
During healing, make sure that your dog does not lick or chew at the wound. Use an Elizabethan collar if necessary (I know, Fido, it's uncomfortable and indignant but...).
Echinacea is an effective immune-boosting herb. You can get a tincture of the herb such as Echinacea and give your dog five drops per ten pounds, two to three times a day. Also give your dog vitamin C (about 5-10 mg/pound, two to three times a day).
Very often, an abscess in dogs is caused by a foreign object (such as foxtails, plant materials, splinters, etc.) embedded in the tissue, in which case the discharge will not stop until the object is removed.
You can choose to have this done surgically or by a natural expelling process aided by the homeopathic remedy Silicea 30C.
Since surgery involves more risks and causes more pain, not to mention it is difficult to locate something small like a piece of splinter, it is advisable to first try using the homeopathic remedy. You may want to seek the help of a holistic vet for dosage and continual monitoring of the abscess.