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Perianal Fistula in Dogs… Symptoms, expectations and costs!

Perianal Fistula in dogs is a a condition that affects a dog in one of the most heart-wrenching ways; this is a term used to describe an infection of a dog’s anal glands.  Which causes the affected dog to suffer from itching, inflammation, and pain, particularly when they need to go “potty.”  And while this condition is relatively common and treatable, even when a loving owner takes all the necessary steps to provide the proper care for their loved one, it still can affect the entire perianal region and anal area.

This is probably due to…

The fact is that this disease is often the result or “symptom” of some other “type” of disease, skin condition, or glandular issue.  This is why, regardless of “why” you think your dog has developed a perianal fistula, you should always have them checked out by a vet.  This is also why we here at IndulgeYourPet also wanted to take a moment and describe precisely what a perianal fistula is so that you, the owner, can get a better understanding of what to look for and also have a better idea about what it will take to restore your dog’s health.

So, without further ado, let’s dive right in!

What is a perianal fistula, and what does it do?

A perianal fistula is an infection of the anal Fistulous tracts in the perianal area. Canine Perianal fistulas will be found around the dog’s anus, anal sphincter, and under the tail. They will present themselves as lesions that are not only weeping but also painful and itchy.  This means your dog will want to scratch but won’t be able to, so be prepared for some butt-rubbing, scooting, and perhaps even spinning in circles on their bottom to alleviate their discomfort!

Symptoms of a Perianal Fistula

Clinical signs or symptoms of this condition include lesions in the anal area that present as cuts or scratches rather than as lumps or bumps, as well as physical behavior manifesting itself in behaviors designed to satiate any itching or irritation your dog may be suffering from in and around his “rear.”

After noticing…

If any of these signs or symptoms, you’ll still want to allow your vet to do a rectal examination to be sure this is what you’re dealing with.  From there, medical management must be undertaken to minimize the risk of the infection spreading, the lesions becoming otherwise infected, or an abscess forming in the glands.  In the worst-case scenario, surgery may be needed, and tail amputation may be necessary in extreme cases.  However, we should record that this type of treatment is only required in severe cases.

Which is why…

You want to be sure and have your vet check out your dog immediately if you suspect something is wrong.  In less extreme cases, your vet may also want to perform an anal capsulectomy if they see fit and if the condition stops your dog from being able to toilet. Of course, surgical treatment options for the anal sacs are only reserved for the more extreme cases.

The real concern…

Is infection.  When these skin tracts become infected, it becomes almost impossible for the dog to perform a regular bowel movement, an issue which will clue you in about the nature of the disease. If you see your dog straining excessively when they are doing business, then this condition may be lingering on them.  The good news is that if caught early, often treating this condition can be pretty simple and not require any type of surgical treatment, which we will discuss later.

Most Commonly Affected Breeds

Breeds known to be susceptible to Perianal Fistula include:

It is worth noting that German Shepherd Dogs are so prone to this condition that they have their very own variant, which is known as anal furunculosis.  Similarly, this condition affects the tissue and perianal skin and inflames it, thus blocking the dog’s bowels. Both state variations will require ongoing medical therapies and treatments should surgery not be an option.

Treatment Options

Initially, your vet will want to run some blood tests and other examinations. This ensures that this disease does not result from, or is connected to, any other conditions your dog may have. They will also want to ensure that the lesions are wounds, not lumps, which might indicate the presence of cancer.  Now without resorting to surgical treatments, there may be other things that your vet will want to try beforehand. Topical creams are available to soothe the itch while preventing the further spread of infection. Your vet might prescribe something like topical Tacrolimus, which, though generally used for humans with severe Eczema flare-ups, will solve the problem a little for your poor pooch.

Other treatments involve…

Soothing and calming the infection to manage it. Your vet may incorporate medical therapies to treat it, such as skin baths or steroidal creams. Depending on your dog’s individual symptoms and needs, Cyclosporine or Ketoconazole applied to the anal sacs or anal area might also help. At any rate, we believe that your vet will try everything they can before resorting to amputation.

This brings us to…

Were we like to remind folks that we here at IndulgeYourPet are not doctors, veterinarians, or medical professionals.  We are all a bunch of folks passionate about animals and only want what’s best for them.  If you feel your pet may have a perianal fistula (or any other health issue), you will want to have them checked out by a vet ASAP!


An early diagnosis will often lead to the “best” medical outcome for your pet regardless of what is bothering them, but beyond that, diagnosing a medical condition early could save you a bundle in medical costs!  This is also why we here at IndulgeYourPet also recommend that any new pet owner take a moment and see what it might cost for you to purchase a pet insurance policy for your new animal.

Now will a pet insurance policy be suitable for everyone?

No, probably not.  But until you fully understand what these policies “will” and “won’t” cover and how much these pet insurance policies cost, how will you know if one might be right for you?

For more information on who we feel currently offers the “best” pet insurance policies out there, we would encourage you to check out our Best Pet Insurance Policies article.

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