Perianal fistulas in dogs are often confused with anal gland impactions, but these are anything but normal gland impactions.
If your dog starts to scoot and lick their anal area, it may indeed be just a case of anal gland impaction.
However, if they carry their tail in a very low carriage style or start to
pass blood through their rectum something is wrong.
If they begin to have ribbon like stools it may be the first signs that there is something much more serious that is occurring in your dog.
If they take the next step and develop a very serious odor as well as literally start to mutilate themselves in their anus, there is a very good chance they have developed Perianal fistulas
Perianal fistulas in dogs are chronic and extremely progressive lesions that develop around the anus area in your dog.
They will develop in a channel between your dog’s anal canal and their surrounding skin.
Lesions are always very dangerous to your dog in any form, especially if they are deep lesions, and this is exactly what these are.
Perianal fistulas in dogs will very rapidly ulcerate and begin to drain.
This draining will become a continual discharge of watery pus that will cause two conditions to develop in your dog.
Severely irritation in their skin, as well as severe pain.
In fact, it can become so severe, that your dog may literally self-mutilate themselves in an attempt to reduce this itching and pain.
Most of these fistulas are caused by abscesses, or pus filled sacs that soon develop into lesions and spread from the inside of the anus to your dog’s outer surface of their skin.
It is also very important for any owner to understand some other very aspects about this condition; it is chronic and it can and usually does reappear even after treatment.
Although it can be treated, it cannot successful be cured.
Perianal fistulas in dogs is almost a complete mystery as to what causes it, as there has been a lot of research on this very painful condition, but there has been no exact cause yet to be identified.
There are, however, several theories.
The first is that it is an immune mediated disease that causes inflammation to occur in your dog’s sweat and sebaceous glands both in and around their anus area.
The sebaceous glands are the oil glands in your dog. Once this inflammation occurs, it triggers infections, the abscesses form and open, and from there they start to drain.
However, what makes Perianal fistulas in dogs so challenging for the medical community and so painful for your dog; they will drain almost continually, spreading even more infection.
Because the area around your dog’s anus and under their tail is both warm as well as moist, it also makes it a natural breeding ground for bacteria to both grow as well as multiply very rapidly.
Another theory is that Perianal fistulas in dogs may cause an overproduction of the localized secretory glans.
When this is combined with the extremely poor ventilation in the immediate area, it explodes.
There are also some circles that suggest it may be related to hip dysplasia, as it affects primarily large breeds of dogs.
To this date, however, all of these are still just theories.
But there is one aspect of Perianal fistulas that is not a theory.
Contamination of your dog’s hair particles as well as their glands located in this area by fecal material can result in very serious tissue damage as well as long term inflammation.
Perianal fistulas in dogs seem to affect male dogs at a two to one ratio, as well as dogs between the ages of 5 to 8 years old.
When this condition was first diagnosed, it was held that it was strictly an inherited disease and only affected German shepherds.
The major reason for this is that German shepherds have a much larger number of glands in their perianal area when compared to other breeds.
However, like the theories involved with this condition, this has also changed as there have been reported cases of Perianal fistulas in other large breeds.
There have been reported cases in Old English Sheepdogs, Irish Setters, Labrador Retrievers, and Border Collies.
It has also been reported in Bulldogs, Spaniels, as well as mixed breeds.
Perianal fistulas in dogs will show you an entire litany of symptoms, but the first sign to watch for is any abnormal activity involving your dog’s tail.
There is no one that knows your dog’s body language better than you do.
If their tail suddenly drops, even in an excited greeting, something is wrong.
Your dog will also begin to chew or lick the affected area and scoot, which is where the confusion with anal gland impaction comes into play.
Most every owner has seen this several times in your dog when it is time to have the glands emptied, but this is not normal.
In fact, it will become anything but normal, as they will be in a lot of pain.
This pain will surface very quickly and you can see it when they try to pass a stool as they will strain and may even cry out, which is very unusual for a dog.
They may also develop fecal incontinence as they can no longer control their stools because of the infection and the pain.
Ulcers that will be accompanied with bleeding are usually the next sign, as well as a very sudden and extremely strong foul odor.
This foul odor is the real clincher with this condition, as the odor is coming from the constant discharge that is now occurring.
Some dogs will also start to change their behaviors and become aggressive if you get anywhere near the anus or their tail.
However, there is one final symptom that may occur; the area around the anus is becoming a lot darker.
The reason for this is that the area that has now become chronically inflamed is developing a lot more pigmentation. This is the final confirmation that your dog has developed Perianal fistulas.
Perianal fistulas in dogs has two forms of treatments; medical as well as surgical.
If the inflammation is considered mild, your dog may be treated by clipping their hair in their anal area, cleaning it with an antiseptic solution, and then flushing with large amounts of water.
If it is considered serious, your veterinarian will most likely use a combination of cyclosporine and ketoconazole for a period of six to ten weeks.
In most every case, they will go into remission after this treatment, but it is important to remember that this is a chronic condition.
Because of this, it can very easily reoccur. There have been some tested treatments in diet modifications, but there have been no reported cases of success with this treatment.
Surgery can be done in the worst case scenario, but this is very difficult even for the most skilled surgeon.
There are numerous nerves and blood vessels located in this area of your dog, making surgery extremely dangerous. In the most severe of cases, your dog’s tail may have to be amputated.
Perianal fistulas in dogs are very serious and should not be confused with anal gland impaction.
Once it is identified, the earlier that you can have it treated, the better chances your dog has of living a normal life.
In the vast majority of cases, the overall prognosis will be guarded at best, as they will most likely reoccur. If your dog does develop fecal incontinence, their chances of beating this have just dropped to poor.