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ANAL FURUNCULOSIS

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 treatment.

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 particularly prone.

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.

Treatment

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 treatment.

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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