Note: Read my July 2016 update on Ace here.
How’s that for a title?
My Lab mix Ace has had a medical issue for the last 3.5 months.
It is a “puncture” type wound under his tail that just will not heal.
The wound sometimes drains a clear liquid and has a “drain tract” that leads all the way above the tail and into the right side of his lower back area.
The wound is near the anal gland area, but the gland is not affected.
We have tried many things.
We tried several rounds of different antibiotics over two months. We tried waiting. We tried surgery (more on that below).
Our vet does not know why this wound & draining won’t go away.
It’s frustrating, expensive and – because of the area affected – it’s a little embarrassing and gross. (I’m not going to post any pictures of the actual wound, but if anyone wants to see I will email a picture.) Above all, I’m worried about my dog.
I have held back on sharing this information because for so long we have not had answers and still don’t.
The vet originally suspected a foxtail had somehow traveled up into Ace’s butt/back, and Ace had surgery Dec. 7 to remove it. The vet never found a foxtail but removed what he descried as a lot of scar tissue equaling the size of a “small lemon” along this distinct “drain tract.”
We assumed whatever foxtail or “foreign body” was stuck in there would’ve likely been pulled out, hidden in all that scar tissue.
We thought that would be the end of it.
But now, here we are five weeks later. My dog’s incision has healed nicely. He has recovered from the surgery. And yet, this “puncture” that went away briefly came back and won’t go away.
I’m sharing this information to let others know they are not alone.
I doubt anyone is dealing with this exact issue, but I do know MANY dog owners are dealing with medical issues (often very expensive ones) without answers.
This is frustrating, stressful and sometimes we must make difficult decisions.
I am thankful Ace’s issue does not seem to be life threatening (yet) that we know of anyway, but he is pretty tired all the time.
He enjoys attention, massage, cuddles, riding in the car and visiting fun places (like Petco or various parks) so that is what I try to do.
We walk about a half-mile per day slowly and he sniffs everything so it takes us a good half-hour to go that distance and it really tests my patience.
I don’t know if his lower energy is related to him being an almost 10-year-old dog (and always pretty lazy anyway) vs. what could be related to this drain tract.
What we’re doing now
We are currently making decisions about whether to move forward with an ultrasound or other type of imaging to find out if there is still something stuck in there or if there is perhaps a strange-acting tumor or a lesion of some sort.
We are also hoping it will just randomly go away.
For now, we are taking the next two weeks to just re-group, and to wait and see if anything changes. Sometimes we think Ace is looking better. Sometimes it’s hard to tell.
Because my dog has also had so many symptoms of allergies over the last six months – ongoing hot spots, ongoing itchy eyes and skin, ear infections – we just want to take a step back and make some adjustments to his environment. We’ve gotten him a new bed and changed his food.
Maybe this issue will finally just go away, although our vet doesn’t think so.
Costly vet care
I’m thankful we’ve been able to “afford” the treatments so far by mostly Care Credit. We do not have pet insurance and there are limits on what I can realistically spend. I will go into some amount of debt for my dog, but there are limits.
If I knew $5,000 would save or fix my dog, I’d probably spend it. But it becomes very difficult over time to keep spending $700 here, $500 there without making any real progress or getting any answers. It’s harder to spend the money when I don’t know if it will even help.
I’ve been lucky my dog’s issue is not necessarily “urgent” or life threatening so we’ve been able to take our time with our decisions. But really we don’t really know what’s going on.
For now, Ace is OK. I’m thankful for that. There are much worse things we could be going through.
In reality, my dog is nearing the end of his life, but I’m hoping we have a couple more years together.
We will appreciate every minute.
Hug your dogs and cats.
-Lindsay & Ace
Are any of you dealing with any confusing medical issues with your dogs?
Feel free to share or vent in the comments.
Friday 25th of February 2022
Hey guys! Curious if the issue with Ace was ever resolved? I found your article because I am having the same issue with my dog. I have decided to fast and pray for him to be healed.
Saturday 26th of February 2022
Yes, the update is linked at the top of this post. He was diagnosed with panniculitis.
Monday 7th of February 2022
Hi there. I am researching looking for answers for these wounds my dog keeps getting ( he's under vet care) would love to see a photo of your dogs wounds if you are happy to share please ?
Monday 7th of February 2022
Hi Sam, it's been so long I don't know that I have images. You can email yours to me at [email protected] if you'd like. I'm not a vet but can tell you if it looks similar.
My dog had panniculitis. Here is an article about his diagnosis: https://www.thatmutt.com/2016/07/24/dog-has-drain-tracts-and-wounds-that-wont-heal/
He developed maybe 5 fatty lumps in his core that looked like lipomas but felt even squishier/softer. Eventually, they would burst and a dark brown/red liquid would come out initially. Then it would leave a puncture-like wound that would continue to drain clear or light pink. These were drain tracts that did not heal until I got him on Atopica. Then they cleared up immediately.
Best of luck.
Thursday 31st of October 2019
This is the same exact thing that my dog is going through right now. I’ve gone through the same exact routine, third round of antibiotics and still hasn’t healed. My vet diagnosed her with a perianal fistula and it was just something my dog would have to live with because of the surgery risks. I just brought her to another vet and they ran blood tests and took a biopsy of a nearby mass that they found. I’m 99% positive that she has what Ace had. Would you mind sending a picture of his situation if possible?
Thursday 31st of October 2019
I don't have one but my husband might. I will check for you. Ace had what is called panniculitis. Here is my update about it: https://www.thatmutt.com/2016/07/24/dog-has-drain-tracts-and-wounds-that-wont-heal/
Thursday 3rd of October 2019
My 13 year old 12 pounds female Shih Tzu has developed a hole near her anus that opens and excretes a bloody fluid. It has closed now but the area around the slit which opens has turned black and there is a bit of purple. Her vet thinks this is a fistula which is associated with anal gland infections that rupture through the skin. But what is perplexing is her anal glands are flat and the hole is much lower than the anal gland.
She has been treated with a steroid/antibiotic cream and an emu-supresent plus lazar treatments for 3 months.
The last time the hole opened I took her to a vet that performs anal gland surgery and she thought there might be a mass associated with the hole.
I am pleased that the hole has closed. But I am concerned about the color of the area. I hesitate given her age to opt for surgery so I am hoping someone may have some experience with discoloration associated with a closed fistula?
Friday 4th of October 2019
Here is an update on my dog just in case it's what you're dealing with, although sounds like your dog does not have the same thing: https://www.thatmutt.com/2016/07/24/dog-has-drain-tracts-and-wounds-that-wont-heal/
Ace’s final diagnosis was panniculitis, which is a rare condition where a dog’s fatty tissue under the skin becomes inflamed, causing “nodules” that can break open and drain an oily, bloody liquid.
Saturday 22nd of July 2017
My dog currently is having the same problem although I'm not sure if this draining tract goes all the way up his back. At first we thought maybe somehow he fought our other dog and got hurt there. He was treated with antibiotics, the area was sutured closed and yet it still keeps opening up. My vet is also unsure of what it is. It's been 5 months now and I'm sure that's not very comfortable. My vet suggested changing our food to a fish and potato diet as it could be a food allergy and some days it's better but it just keeps opening up. I know it's been over a year now but I was wondering if you were ever able to figure out what it was or any suggestions?
Sunday 23rd of July 2017
The disease Ace has is called panniculitis and he takes Atopica to manage it. I recommend you work with a dermatologist and I wish your dog the best!
Saturday 22nd of July 2017
I just realized you posted an update on Ace. I'm glad you finally resolved what it was and that he's felling better. After he settles into his new food, if there still isn't much change I'm gonna have to take him to the dermatologist