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Anal Fistulae In Dogs – Symptoms & Treatment

Anal Fistulae In Dogs

What is Anal Fistulae In Dogs?

What If your dog sloppily sitting all the time, wagging its tail weirdly and looks restless? Nobody gives a dime about dogs’ anal issues. Now imagine your fistulated dog, yes, that will be in a great deal of pain in the ass.

Perianal fistula is a chronic, purulent, ulcerating, malodorous, sinus tract in the dog’s perianal region. This most commonly affects German shepherd dogs, but may also affect other mixed breed dogs.

This disease is also called anorectal abscesses, pararectal fistulae, perianal fissures, perineal fistulae and perianal sinuses.

In affected dogs, the condition is usually associated with painful sinus tracts and ulcers that develop around the perianal region. An affected dog may have a single fistula or many fistulae that can surround the anal sphincter with deep open crevices and some oozing pus.

Treatments range from medication to surgery, though for many dogs the problem wax and wane over time and for some the condition is progressive.

Symptoms Of Anal Fistulae In Dogs

  • Experiencing pain when defecating
  • Low tail carriage
  • Skin irritation and redness around the anus
  • Decreased appetite (anorexia)
  • Constipation
  • Licking of the area
  • Mucus or blood in his stools
  • A smelly discharge
  • Restless and Irritability

Treatment Options For Anal Fistulae In Dogs

  • Medical management can be classified into 2 phases- an induction phase and a maintenance phase.
  • Medication managements are available but these approaches can be unsatisfactorily useful and frustrating for the pet owners and the pet.
  • As an immune-mediated disease, the treatment focuses on suppressing the immune reaction that is causing the problem and immunosuppressive drugs are suggested.
  • Surgery is only recommended for dogs when immunosuppression treatment has failed
  • In milder cases, chemical cauterization of fistulae (chemical agents destroy abnormal tissue), Cryotherapy (a freezing agent is used to freeze and destroy abnormal tissue), and Laser therapy are used
  • Almost 25% of cases are unresponsive and need intermittent treatment for life. The remaining 75% of cases resolve after lengthy treatment.
  • But in all the cases, although not curative, the treatment is certainly palliative and reduces the pain and discomfort that the dog experiences.
  • Cyclosporine-an oral drug (brand name Atopica®) and tacrolimus (a topical drug) currently dominate immunosuppressive treatment for this condition
  • Tacrolimus (brand name Protopic®)and Azathioprineare also used nowadays
  • Antibiotics are prescribed adjunctively to control complicating infections

Home Remedies For Anal Fistulae In Dogs

  1. Calendula compress: 1 cup of warm water, a tsp of salt and 8 drops of calendula tincture, soak a cloth and apply it in to the dogs bottom and make sure the region is dry after the procedure.
  2. Epsom salt or Witch Hazel: 1 cup of warm water infused with 1 to 2 teaspoons of Epsom salt or Witch Hazel. Soak a cloth and hold this in affected region for 5 to 10 minutes, twice per day, every day.

How to Prevent Anal Fistulae In Dogs?

  • Provide your dogs a fibre-rich diet
  • Increase moisture by adding more liquid directly to their food
  • Many dogs find moving water more pleasant. So you can also invest in a pet drinking fountain
  • Easily digestible foods avoid strain while stool passing
  • Teach to Maintain dryness in the anal region

Affected Dog Breeds Of Anal Fistulae

German Shepherd, Irish Setter, Labrador Retriever. Middle-aged to older dogs

Additional Facts For Anal Fistulae In Dogs

  • Perianal refers to the opening of the rectum to the outside of the body, the area immediately surrounding the anus.
  • A fistulae is an abnormal passageway or tunnel that forms between organs, body cavities, or the body surface that normally do not connect.
  • The involvement of anal glands in the fistulation is not yet confirmed, but there seems to be a clear association with mucous diarrhea of colitis (inflammation of the colon).
    • The cause of the condition is multifactorial. Allergic skin disease, genetics, changes in the functioning of the immune system, and conformation-related issues (like limber tail -tucking the tails close down to anuses) are among the factors thought to play a role in the disease process.
  • The reason proposed to explain why the German shepherd breed is the most affected is it has an increased number of apocrine sweat glands. These sweat glands produce pheromones - odorless, oily sweat (it is not stinky unless it is mixed with dirt and bacteria) in the anal area relative to other breeds (watery sweat).
  • 85% of affected dogs are German shepherd dogs however, any breed can be affected.

When To See A Vet For Anal Fistulae In Dogs?

Pet owners may not notice the few clinical signs and the condition in its early stages of development.

Some may find it when the dog is being bathed or groomed or during a routine physical examination or

As the disease progresses, the affected dog will usually lick excessively at its tail and rectal regions, there will be blood in the feces and strain during defecation.

Some dogs will appear agitated, gets aggressive if the tail or hindquarters are touched, and reluctant to sit, and some may not wag their tail normally.

When your dog demonstrates any of these signs, contact your veterinarian for a routine checkup.

Dog Food Suggestions For Anal Fistulae

  1. Raw diet with little bone content
  2. Leafy greens such as steamed broccoli
  3. Add canine formulated prebiotic and/or probiotics to your dog's diet
  4. Try this great fiber broth recipe
    • 2 tbsp psyllium husks
    • 1 Cup of bone broth

Heat up bone broth and put in psyllium husks

Stir with a spoon until becomes jelly-like (This takes only a few minutes)

Let the mixture settle down and cool for sometime

Feed your dog as required for 1-2 days as a meal replacement

Don’t overfeed it may cause constipation


Most pet owners don’t have the habit of checking the area under their dog’s tail unless the dog tends to do something that indicates a problem. Also, only few clinical signs are manifested initially as the condition may go unnoticed.

Perianal fistula is a annoying, awkward -to-treat disease.  Depending on the treatment, the condition recurs in as many as 80% of dogs. So it’s good to see a board-certified veterinary dermatologist or internist as early as possible.

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