Anal Infection (Perianal Fistula or Anal Furunculosis)
Perianal Fistula or Anal Furunculosis is a chronic and painful lesion around the anus. They can form deep and draining ulcers.
Who Gets Anal Infections
Unfortunately, German Shepherds are the main breed to suffer Anal Infections - one study accounted for 84% of the dogs diagnosed. This may be due to the larger number of glands in the perianal area when compared to other breeds, or the way the tail is set and carried.
However, primarily male German Shepherds are affected, and mostly between the age of 5 to 8 years. Nonetheless, once your dog contracts an Anal Infection, it becomes almost always chronic in nature. This means that the standard treatment can get rid of this ailment for the moment, but it is recurring nonetheless.
Observe if your German Shepherd frequently chews or licks the perianal area, or if your dog scoots the anal area over the ground. In either case, carefully lift your dog's tail and see if there are any ulcers, bleeding, red or black spots, or foul-smelling discharge around the anal area. Note that simply lifting the tail may hurt your dog if the area is infected.
This visual diagnosis is already sufficient, however in addition your dog may show a clearly different potty routine and the looks of the stool may be different too. Some dogs will become lethargic and lose appetite and weight. Because of the discomfort and pain, you may notice a change in behavior of your dog too - potentially up to the point where you have to deal with German Shepherd aggression, even if your GSD was docile before this ailment occured.
Avoiding and Treating Anal Infections
The warm, moist area around the anus and under the tail make an excellent environment for bacteria to multiply, up to the point of an Anal Infection. Hence it is sensible to avoid this by regularly cleansing the anus area of your German Shepherd with a strong antiseptic spray - ideally daily but at least every other day. You may also want to do this if you have a female GSD to help avoid that she might contract an Anal Infection at some point.
You need not worry that daily antiseptic cleaning might harm your German Shepherd's delicate skin, but if you do you can afterwards apply a flimsy coating of ClearSkin-E Cream - which can work wonders on your dog's skin, as well as on your own. Make sure that you and the cloth won't touch the tube after you or the cloth have touched your dog's anal area. Always wash your hands thoroughly with an antiseptic lotion before you apply any care product to your dog, and afterwards again.
Once an Anal Infection occurs, treatment is difficult - as with all chronic diseases. If you notice it early and the condition is mild, you can attempt home treatment: Spray a strong antiseptic wound wash directly around your dog's anus area, three times a day. Continue with this treatment until at least one full week after the infection seems to have disappeared.
Whenever you cleanse the anus area before spraying the antiseptic wound wash, use a lint-free, clean cloth and move from the outer, yet seemingly unaffected areas, to the inner, clearly affected areas in one straight line. Then use a different piece of cloth and repeat, now moving on a different imaginary line. Repeat until you've covered the 360 degrees around and towards the anus. The direction of the movements during cleansing is crucial: Do not spread the bacteria from the clearly more affected area to the yet seemingly unaffected areas!
Do not use the same piece of cloth twice. Therefore, depending on the severity of the infection, you may need to use many pieces of lint-free cloth per cleansing session, hence a huge number of cloths over a three-week treatment period. After each session, burn the bunch of cloths (or dispose of them in a separate sealed bin bag). Do not wash and reuse or deposit them where a dog may nuzzle. Wash your hands thoroughly with an antiseptic lotion.
Conversely, if you feel that your dog's anus area looks bad, it probably is. Visit the vet straight away. However, some vets don't grasp the severity of an Anal Infection, and others simply prescribe their blanket treatment, antibiotics. If you feel that your vet doesn't take the Anal Infection as serious as it is, or if they suggest an unspecific and inappropriate treatment like antibiotics, visit another vet instead.
A final note: It should be obvious that your dog shouldn't be allowed on your bed or the couch. Now you have one more reason why this is so. Unless you have just cleansed the anus area with a strong antiseptic spray, your dog's anus area will be populated with very nasty bacteria - all the time, not just during an Anal Infection.