Anal Furunculosis

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Anal furunculosis, also called perianal fistula is a distressing condition that can affect any breed but is most commonly seen in German Shepherd Dogs. The problem is due to chronic deep infection, inflammation and ulceration around the anus and tail base. It can be very difficult to cure but advances in treatment are proving encouraging, especially if the disease is treated early.

The disease can start unnoticed and may only be evident from the dog licking its’ backend more often. You may notice that your dog shows mild discomfort or difficulty when passing faeces. Other signs of illness such as weight loss, irritability or depression can be seen in severe cases, as anal furunculosis can be extremely painful. When you look at the backside you may see matted hair, discharge, bleeding, odour and small holes around the anus. Your dog may not let you look though as it is painful. Your vet will usually be able to diagnose this from an examination, although if it is very painful, your dog may need sedation to be examined fully.

No one has proved what causes anal furunculosis, though it is more common in dogs with broad tail bases and low carriage, this conformation may result in poor ventilation and increased humidity of the anal area. Faecal bacteria may stay in this environment, so encouraging infection of the hair follicles and hormone glands in this area. Underlying problems with the immune system may also play an important role and anal furunculosis has been linked to inflammatory bowel syndrome and colitis. If your dog gets recurrent diarrhoea they may be more at risk.

Anal furunculosis is difficult to treat, there are several different methods that can be used, though none are 100% effective in all cases. The diseased tissue can be surgically removed, depending on how deep the infection tracts and they may need several operations. If extensive surgery is performed there is a risk of nerve damage & faecal incontinence. Some surgeons may recommend tail amputation to improve the ventilation and removal of the anal sacs.

Recently we have used new drugs available that moderate the immune system and are given by mouth and these are much more effective than previous treatments available.

Pain relief is also important to help your dog.

Some vets also recommend hydrotherapy. This involves using a gentle shower of lukewarm water over the affected area under the tail, once or twice a day. This can start gradually and build up to 15 minute sessions as the dog gets used to it.

You must remember though that anal furunculosis is a long term disease and if treatment is totally withdrawn, the disease can return.

If you have any doubts or concerns please speak to your vet for advice.

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