What is anal furunculosis?
Anal furunculosis is also called perianal fistula or perianal sinus. It is
a condition affecting mainly the German Shepherd Dog. However Sheepdogs, Irish
Setters and crossbreeds, particularly those of German Shepherd breeding, can
also be affected.
How do I recognize it? - What are its signs?
The condition can often go undetected in its early stages and is often discovered
by the veterinary surgeon during a routine examination for other reasons, e.g.
booster vaccinations etc. Initially the dog may show no signs. However as the
disease progresses straining, with painful defecation, often with blood streaked
feces may be noticed. There will be excessive licking and often self-mutilation
together with a reluctance to sit. Tail movements may become painful and there
may a resentment of any approach to the anal region. Many dogs show personality
changes which can often be vague. If your dog does show any of these signs you
should contact your veterinary surgeon.
What does the condition involve?
The condition involves multiple chronic fistulous tracks or ulcerating sinuses
involving the whole of the anal region and surrounding skin. The condition could
be compared with a carbuncle - a many headed abscess.
What is the cause?
The cause is not fully understood although impaction or infection of the anal
sacs (anal glands), and adjacent sinuses and crypts has been suggested. Poor
ventilation of the anal region has long been proposed as a major contributory
factor. Indeed tail amputation at one time enjoyed popularity as a method of
Recent work indicates the condition may have an auto immune basis. There may
also be a genetic predisposition. Some families of German Shepherd dogs appear
Is there any sex or age predisposition?
No. Dogs of both sexes can be affected and animals of any age from approximately
one year can become victims of the disease. There appears to be no predilection
for sex although it is considered that unneutered animals, of either sex, may
have a higher prevalence.
Since the cause of the condition is not fully understood it is not surprising
that many forms of treatment have been suggested.
Medical treatment will often result in improvement in mild cases but frequently
is not permanent in nature.
Increasing ventilation by clipping the area, particularly in full coated dogs,
together with careful systematic bathing is a useful palliative measure.
Meticulous surgery to remove as much infected tissue as possible together with
cryotherapy involving freezing the area in order to reduce the infection and
stimulate healing offers a good solution to the problem in many cases.
Is treatment curative?
Using conventional surgery with or without additional cryotherapy, some 80%
of animals will, after treatment, go on to enjoy normal happy lives without
substantial inconvenience. Success very much depends on early diagnosis and
It has been accepted that up to 20% of cases are unresponsive and irrespective
of the treatment technique selected will involve recurrent visits to the vet.
In these cases, treatment, although not curative, is certainly palliative and
results in a happier dog since pain and discomfort are greatly reduced.
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