Question: My dog, Ricky, has started showing signs of irritation on one of his front legs. There is what appears to be an abscess. Can you please tell me how he got this and how I can treat it?
Answer: Surface wounds, though fairly common in dogs, can become problematic if they are left untreated and become infected. While most irritations can often be treated with ointments and creams, an abscess can form if an irritation worsens or if bacteria invades the skin.
A vet can determine the cause of the wound and suggest a correct course of treatment.
Please do not attempt to treat your dog without taking advice from a professional first.
An abscess is a localised skin infection and is one of the most common skincare issues for dogs.
At first, an abscess will appear as a tender growth, much like a small blister. Over a few days, it will get filled with pus – a thick fluid produced by the body as it fights the bacterial infection.
While these white skin cells are attacking the bacteria, they create a hardened lump on the skin.
In addition to the main abscess lump, the surrounding area will exhibit pain, redness and swelling. This area may also feel warm to the touch.
Abscesses have a range of causes, including wounds, foreign objects such as splinters, common bacterial infections, sebaceous cysts, nutritional deficiency or recent exposure to a toxic substance.
Additional causes may include mites, an imbalanced immune system (a by-product of stress or other health problems), poor hygiene and/or poor nutrition. Often, unless the wound is very large and obvious, an owner may first notice that their pet is scratching or rubbing the affected areas.
Or, you may have seen reddish or brown staining of the surrounding hair, circular patches of baldness, raised tufts of hair, an overall dull coat, scaly skin, or excessive shedding. More serious tell-tale symptoms to watch out for are sudden drops in energy, appetite loss, or sluggish movement.
Although there is no fail-safe way to prevent your pet from developing abscesses again, you can discourage skin irregularities by ensuring he is regularly, and correctly groomed.
Also, try to provide your dog with balanced nutritious meals. Without proper nourishment, a pet’s entire body, not just its skin and coat, will be continuously in a state of stress.
Many types of dermatological problems can be avoided if your dog is consuming an optimum diet.
l Dr Hansel Geo is a veterinary consultant and surgeon for the BSPCA and Charis Vets. Please send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org