How to Clean a Dog's Abscess

Medium
10 - 15 Minutes
4 Day

Introduction

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.

Dog's Perspective

Abscesses hurt!  They are characterized by a hard painful lump, which when it bursts open, may relieve some of the pressure and pain, however, redness, irritation and foul discharge will be present at the abscess site. Your dog may lick at the area, or try to interfere with the wound. Pain and discomfort may make your dog listless, and if the abscess starts to spread and become systemic you will have one very sick puppy on your hands. Your dog may be reticent about having the area handled due to pain, and may behave out of character because of the discomfort. Be careful handling and cleaning abscess sites and watch your dog for signs of distress and abnormal behavior Adjust accordingly so as not to cause your dog more pain and possibly cause him to become anxious or aggressive.

The Clean Up Discharge Method

Effective
0 Votes
Towel
Step
1
Wash before and after
Wash hands with surgical scrub or sterilize with rubbing alcohol before and after handling and cleaning the abscess.
Step
2
Flush out wound
Flush out the wound with saline solution by flushing out the open cavity with solution dispensed from a syringe.
Step
3
Clean area
Several times a day, clean the area around the abscess with saline in a syringe to avoid disturbing inflamed painful skin, or by wiping with a saline soaked piece of gauze and very gently wiping away from the wound opening.
Step
4
Clean bedding
If there is lots of pus and discharge, try to contain your dog to a bed area or crate and change the bedding frequently to reduce contamination.
Step
5
Prevent interference
Keep your dog from licking scratching or biting the area. You may need to use an Elizabethan collar.
Recommend grooming method?

The Promote Drainage Method

Effective
0 Votes
Towel
Step
1
Apply warm compresses
Soak and wring out a cloth with warm water and gently apply compresses to the abscess site for 5-10 minutes 4-5 times daily. This will increase blood flow to the area, which promotes healing and carries away toxins, it also keeps the wound open to drain.
Step
2
Medicate compress
You can add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to the warm water or apply a plantain tincture to draw out infection.
Step
3
Apply pressure
Gently apply pressure to squeeze out pus in the wound. Have a disposable cloth or towel available to capture discharge and dispose of pus extracted from the abscess.
Step
4
Keep open
Make sure the wound remains open as long as pus is discharging. Do not cover abscesses with dressings that prevent draining.
Step
5
Apply ointment
Once pus has finished draining, apply calendula ointment or antibiotic ointment to the healing wound. Unpasteurized honey can also be used as a dressing that allows fluids to drain, has antibacterial properties and promotes healing.
Recommend grooming method?

Caution & Considerations

  • Seek veterinary attention if signs of systemic infection occur like listlessness, loss of appetite, fever, or severe pain.
  • If the abscess does not begin to heal within a few days with cleaning and treatment, seek veterinary attention.
  • Abscesses near the eyes, ears, genitals or anus need to be seen by a veterinarian.
  • Clean the area you are working with before and after cleaning the abscess to prevent introducing further contaminants and to thoroughly remove pus and bacteria draining from the wound.
  • Do not allow draining abscesses to close over prematurely, or cover with bandaging that prevents pus from escaping.

Conclusion

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.

Success Stories and Grooming Questions

Book me a walkiee?
Pweeeze!
Sketch of smiling australian shepherd