Carbuncles in Dogs

Carbuncles can be uncomfortable for dogs afflicted with them.
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Like humans, dogs can sometimes develop boils and carbuncles on their skin. While a carbuncle, or cluster of pus-filled boils, may be hidden by your pet's fur, it's important to identify its existence in order to determine proper treatment methods. If not relieved, carbuncles can cause your dog pain and discomfort.

What is a Carbuncle?

The term "carbuncle" is used to refer to a cluster of boils that have formed underneath a human or animal's skin. Carbuncles can be identifed as a reasonably sized blobby mass. These lumps are full of pus which can contain infection, and a carbuncle forms when several nearby boils are connected by this infection. A boil can initially occur under the skin when a hair follicle becomes infected through bacteria, and in dogs, sometimes occurs due to a parasitic mite called the Demodex canis. This mite usually lives in the hair follicles of many mammals, but if your dog's immune system is weak, it may have a strong enough presence to cause breakouts of boils. Any allergy that may cause a dog to itch can also spread infection throughout boils and create a carbuncle. Sometimes, poor diet can contribute.

What Does a Carbuncle Do?

In their most basic state, boils in dogs are typically not life-threatening and can sometimes heal on their own. Carbuncles, however, can cause a dog great pain, as they are larger pockets full of pus. Dogs suffering from debilitating carbuncles are lethargic and have stiffer movements. If the dog scratches or bites at the sore, it can become further infected and may require medical treatment to ensure it doesn't turn into a major, life-threatening infection.

Treatment of Carbuncles

You can identify carbuncles at home, but they often require veterinary care for treatment. A veterinarian can aspirate a carbuncle, drawing the pus out with a needle and causing the lump to go down. Pet owners hoping to help ease their pet's pain while waiting for a veterinary appointment can do so by applying a warm, damp washcloth to the affected area. This will also cause the pus to accumulate at a central point within the mass and hasten the draining process. Dogs who lick at infected areas can be controlled both before and after a carbuncle is drained with an Elizabethan collar.

Prevention of Carbuncles

Regular bathing cleanses your dog's skin and hair, making your dog's surface area a less-than-prime space for infection. Too much bathing, however, can dry out a dog's skin and therefore create other skin problems. Appropriate bathing schedules can vary for different breeds and individual dogs, so if you're unsure what is a good schedule for your pet, consult with a groomer. Any time your dog gets into a situation where bacteria could be prevalent -- such as swimming in a lake -- a bath is recommended to remove potential infectants. Additionally, pet owners should be careful with dogs who already have open wounds or sores that could turn into a worse infection. Do not let your dog get into dirty environments if he has open wounds or sores.