What are the Treatments for Seroma Formation in Dogs?

by Catherine Troiano
    Post-surgical activity restriction will reduce the chance of seroma formation.

    Post-surgical activity restriction will reduce the chance of seroma formation.

    David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images

    If your dog just had surgery, whether for a routine spay or for an anterior cruciate ligament repair, your veterinarian issued postoperative instructions at discharge to help you take care of your furry friend while she recuperates. One of those instructions was to inspect your pet's incision area daily and to alert the veterinarian if any redness, swelling or oozing is observed. If you see swelling or a lump, it may be a seroma.

    A seroma is a collection of serum that is produced during the healing process. Serum is the clear to pale pink serous fluid component of blood. It doesn't contain red blood cells. This serum accumulates in a pocket of subcutaneous tissue at an incision site where there is extra space under the skin or in an area that experiences a lot of movement. Seromas are not painful, and the body usually reabsorbs the fluid over time. Some seromas may become larger, leading to discomfort and increasing the risk for infection, and so any swelling should be addressed to your veterinarian to prevent this scenario. Part of his recommendation will be to keep your recuperating pup less active for the duration of her healing period.

    A seroma arises from inflammation. It can occur at a healing surgical site or an injection site, and it can also result from trauma. It can form in any post-operative patient, but the most common contributing factor is one that you can control. If your playful youngster was just spayed, you were probably instructed to keep her calm and discourage running, jumping and rough-housing. This is often easier said than done with a rambunctious puppy who wants to play and explore her world. Too much physical activity during the recovery period can result in a seroma or a reopened incision.

    Not all post-surgical swellings are seromas. Other causes of swelling include more serious complications such as an infection or sutures that have opened. Seromas are not usually serious, but any swelling or lump noted on your dog's incision area must be considered a post-operative complication. Your veterinarian needs to examine the swelling so he can confirm the problem and determine the best course of treatment. If the swelling is due to a seroma formation, treatment will be based on its size and location.

    If the seroma is small, your veterinarian may opt to leave it alone and monitor its progress. If such is the case, be sure to inform him if the swelling increases in size, changes in color, becomes hard or feels hot to the touch. He may also recommend the use of warm or cold compresses on the area. If the seroma is large, the doctor will probably insert a needle into the pocket and drain the fluid into a syringe. In some cases of larger seromas that a veterinarian has reason to suspect may persist, he may place a drain to allow the excess fluid to exit the body. Be sure to keep your dog from licking the incision area, curb her physical activity, follow all of your veterinarian’s seroma and incision care instructions carefully and return for all recommended follow-up visits.

    Photo Credits

    • David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Based on Long Island, Catherine Troiano has been writing pet-related articles since 2011. As a former veterinary technician of more than 10 years, she has amassed extensive knowledge and is versed in an array of health topics pertaining to cats and dogs.

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