Perianal fistula | Daily News


Perianal fistula

Perianal area

Perianal refers to the area immediately surrounding the anus or termination of the digestive tract.

What is fistula?

A fistula is an abnormal connection that forms between two tissues, organs, or vessels that normally do not connect. In affected dogs, the condition is usually associated with an infection in the perianal region, and there are usually one or more draining tracts present.

Breed affected

Perianal fistula, is a serious medical condition that most commonly affects German shepherd dogs, but may also occur in other purebred or mixed breed dogs.

What causes perianal fistulas to form?

The cause is not fully understood although impaction or infection of the anal sacs (anal glands) and adjacent sinuses and crypts has been suggested. Poor air circulation around the anal region has long been proposed as a major contributory factor. The condition may have an autoimmune cause.

Is there any sex or age predisposition?

No. Adult dogs of either sex can become victims of the disease, although there appears to be a higher prevalence of the disease in non-neutered animals of either sex. It is most commonly diagnosed in dogs over seven years of age.


In its early stages of development, there may be few clinical signs and the condition may go unnoticed. Some cases are discovered during a routine physical examination or when the dog is being bathed or groomed. As the disease progresses, the affected dog will usually strain during defecation, and there will be blood in the feces. A decreased appetite is common in dogs with perianal fistulas. Usually, the dog will lick excessively at its tail and rectal regions. Some dogs will be reluctant to sit, some may not wag their tail normally, and some may become aggressive if the tail or hindquarters are touched. Behavior changes are common, some dogs will become withdrawn or act depressed and others may appear agitated or even aggressive. If your dog demonstrates any of these signs, you should contact your veterinarian.

Perianal fistulas are characterized by chronic, purulent (pus producing), smelly, ulcerating, sinus tracts in the anal region and surrounding skin

How is the condition treated?

Since the cause of the condition is not well understood, it is not surprising that many forms of treatment have been suggested.

In mild cases, the condition will improve with medical treatment, but frequently the improvement is not permanent. Antimicrobials may also be prescribed to treat secondary bacterial infections. A hypoallergenic food trial is recommended since many cases may have an underlying allergic or autoimmune cause. Increasing ventilation of the perianal region by clipping the area, particularly in long-coated dogs, combined with careful systematic bathing and cleaning is a useful palliative measure.

In severe cases, surgery to debride or remove as much infected tissue as possible may be beneficial. This will reduce the amount of infection and may stimulate improved healing. Surgery is used only in cases where medical treatment fails.

Is treatment curative?

Many cases will resolve after lengthy treatment. Regardless of whether medical or surgical treatment is pursued, these cases are often frustrating for the pet owners and uncomfortable for the pet.

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