Did you know your dog's body is full of cavities? Not the cavities you get in your teeth, but space between skin, tissues, muscles, and organs. If bacteria is introduced to these cavities, an abscess can develop when white blood cells attack the bacteria and then die forming pus, a nasty fluid buildup of dead cells, under the skin or around organs. The body forms a thick capsule or pocket to contain the abscess and prevent it from spreading.
Sometimes the abscess resolves itself, and fluid is absorbed or dissipates, but sometimes it continues to build and puts pressure on surrounding tissues, eventually rupturing tissues and skin so the abscess can drain. When this happens, foul-smelling fluid is discharged from the site of the rupture, often the original wound where bacteria was introduced in the first place. Abscesses in dogs are commonly caused by bacteria that live in your dog's skin being introduced to your dog's internal tissues when a sliver, bite or other puncture wound occurs. The abscess then needs to be cleaned and sometimes treated with antibiotics.
Abscesses are messy and unpleasant to deal with and need to be handled, cleaned and monitored closely to prevent complications from developing. An abscess is the body's natural way of containing and eliminating bacteria introduced to the body. Helping this process is important to resolve the issue, by keeping wounds open and allowing them to drain, by flushing with saline to remove excess fluids and applying warm compresses to aid the body's natural infection-fighting abilities. Remember to keep the area your dog is in clean and prevent contamination. You may need to limit your dog’s movement so you can keep on top of cleaning up discharge, and wash your hands and any tools or cloths you use with antibacterial soap and alcohol as necessary, to prevent the spread of bacteria.