My Dog Has A Wound & Drain Tract Under His Tail That Won’t Heal

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.

My black Lab mix Ace

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.

Ace the black Lab by the fire

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.

Ace the black Lab mix

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.

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65 thoughts on “My Dog Has A Wound & Drain Tract Under His Tail That Won’t Heal”

  1. Has your vet considered that it’s an anal fistula? Humans get them, too. Sometimes fissures in the anal canal from straining allow the natural staphylococcus in the tract to create a tunnel. The result is a non-healing wound that responds temporarily to antibiotics. Surgery typically closes the tract and the wound heals. Incontinence issues can arise as a complication, however.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Thank you. In doing my own “google research” on this, that is one of the things that kept making sense to me. The vet never brought it up but I asked him about it. He doesn’t think that’s what it is because of how far back this tract goes – way up into Ace’s back. But it does sound similar to that. Perhaps it’s worth bringing up again or getting a second opinion, which we are planning to do in two weeks if it’s not better.

      1. This issue (fistula) arose in my Pom as he got older. DIY remedy worked to clear it out and heal it up.Warm water rinse with a bulb followed by Betadine took care of it. Sometimes the old remedies work as well as new ones. For another take on this, read Julie Szabo’s Medicine Dog, and learn how her search for answers saved her own life.

      2. Miel D'Rodilique

        I’m so sorry that your family is having to deal with this. I can empathize, unfortunately; my old Greyhound (a very thin-skinned breed) sustained a neck wound that required several surgeries. In between the multiple staplings, etc., my vet recommended I apply Granulex V, which can be obtained OTC from a variety of easily-accessed outlets. While it didn’t completely close the wound, it helped a great deal. I hope it can help your guy, too. Please keep us posted.

          1. Miel D'Rodilique

            As an aside, I have to tell you that the comments posted here ALL seem to be well-intended and thoughtful. It’s a rare blog that has such a caring (and courteous) readership; if nothing else, I hope you’re able to take comfort in that. We all wish the very best for you and your loved ones, of all species.

  2. I’m sorry to hear that.
    I don’t have any ideas or solution but maybe you’d like to try turmeric paste? You could join Turmeric User Group on facebook for help. People have lots of success with various issues, they are also very helpful and have vets as members. Turmeric Golden Paste is cheap to make.
    Good luck!

  3. I am so sorry you are going through this! I can’t imagine how stressful and expensive this must be. In my life I’ve experienced two chronic “mystery” illnesses in a pet. One ended very well, the other didn’t. However, the one that ended badly involved chronic, extreme pain of no known cause and my mother ended up choosing to euthanize my childhood dog after many vets and over a year of pain. Your dog doesn’t seem to be in pain so I hope that story doesn’t scare you too much. Poor Ace’s problem sounds more like my damn cat Fred, and what I have officially titled his Weird Eye Thing of 2015. Last year my 1-year-old cat went off his food, threw up a couple times, and just as I was wondering if this was serious enough to warrant a vet trip, his eye went weird. He couldn’t completely close his third eyelid, and was FREAKY looking! I rushed him to my vet, who was completely baffled. All kinds of expensive tests were done, revealing nothing but the fact that there seemed to be a mysterious foreign body floating in the back of his eye. The stomach issues cleared up right away, but the eye this got worse, if anything. I was putting all kinds of drops in and bringing him to weekly appointments. Eventually, after a month of two, the eye looked normal to me, but my vet said there was still something IN his eye. I waited forever to see a specialist 50 miles away. After months of ongoing problems I was expecting the worst (and a lot of expense!) but the cat ophthalmologist took one look at my young cat’s eye and said, “He’s got cataracts. It’s not a big deal.” Will he go blind?” I asked. He said maybe, and said I didn’t care because he never looks where he’s going anyways. It’s been months and it’s no worse. Maybe see some kind of specialist? It could be something incredibly simple but obscure! Good luck!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Sorry to hear about Fred’s eye. That must’ve been stressful figuring out what it was. I’m glad its not any worse.

    2. We had a cat with eye issues, too. When we adopted Max, he’d had to have one eye removed due to being shot with a BB gun. After about a year or so, the eye socket kept getting infected, and we could not figure out what was going on. Then, one time I had him to the vet for yet another infection, she was examining the eye and there was this thin piece of blue plastic- looked like a thin piece of the stuff they make plastic lanyards out of. She tugged it, but it was anchored solidly. She took him in for surgery, and it turned out that when they removed his eye, they’d used this plastic stuff to suture it. And now, it was causing his immune system to reject the stuff, and that’s what was causing the infections. She got it all out, re-sutured with dissolving stitches, and the infections never came back. The funny part was, when she was telling me about the plastic sutures, she said, “I didn’t do that surgery, did I?” I told her no, he came from the rescue after the surgery was done. She said, “Good. I didn’t think I’d do something like that!” LOL

    3. I appreciate your information. Though my 4.5 year-old Rottweiler is healthy at this moment, reading all comments here is a good education for me.

  4. Ah, sorry to hear. As you know I’m no stranger to health problems, straightforward or not so straightforward ones. The best policy when you “hit the wall” is to get a second opinion. SOMETIMES, all it takes is a different pair of eyes.

  5. Sorry to hear about Ace. I was going to suggest it was a fistula, but someone beat me to it. I used to work in the O.R. so that was the first thing I thought of. If it were me, I’d get a second opinion. Good luck!

  6. No problems so far with Lambeau, but our first dog, a chocolate Lab named Murphy, came to us as a stray, so we knew nothing about him, other than that he was about two years old and a very sweet, well-mannered dog. We discovered in short ordet that he had ongoing issues with ear infections. My vet thought it was allergies, but it took a good year to narrow down the culprits. We never did get it to one (or a few) specific things, but we did find out what to avoid in general. But, before we got it figured out, I was at the vet’s with him every month or six weeks, $100-$150 each time, what with exam, cleaning, antibiotics, ear meds, etc. It is frustrating when you can’t pin down one exact thing that is causing the problems. I hope Ace feels better soon, and that you get to the root of his problems.

  7. I’m so sorry you guys are going through that. I hope Ace gets better. I haven’t had to deal with any confusing or major medical issues with any of my pets yet. Storm does have a pea-sized lump under his ear we’re monitoring but so far so good.

  8. My heart goes out to you and wish I knew something useful. You have received some good counsel, especially about seeing a specialist or getting a second opinion. Is there a veterinary school in a college near you? They may have up to date information and be more affordable. Since I am retired and I take my dogs to a dog park to play, I carry pet insurance just in case some thing awful happens, which I can afford more easily than a big vet bill, which can be staggering. Hoping something wonderful happens soon!

  9. Thank you for sharing this news so we can support you at least by encouraging comments. Ace is such a great dog and your articles about him and your training of him have helped so many people. I truly hope that a solution is soon found and that Ace has his health and energy returned and that you are able to fully enjoy his last years–but may they be many!

  10. Dear Lindsay, I am very sorry to read what you are going through with your wonderful Ace. I have no answers for his current affliction, only a caution thst our pets, just as with us humans, do not heal well ss we grow old. It is part of the cycle of life for all animals. We all vaguely think our beloved pet companions will be our forever companions, for life.. At at age 75 I now understand that all the heartache and feelings of loss I have suffered when a pet’s time with me is over, is nothing compared to the love and joy and companionship every one of them has brought to my life. Please do not try to preserve his life “whatever the cost” at the expense of his quality of life. Whatever the outcomevwith Ace, you will havevwonderful memories of him, forever. God bless!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Thanks Mags. I definitely won’t preserve any animal’s life at whatever cost. As hard as it will be, I know I will be able to let Ace go when the time comes.

  11. I feel for you! We’ve been going back and forth to the vet to figure out why our 12-year old lab mix Kepler has been vomiting foam. While we’re happy that his food stays down, we’re still trying to get to the bottom of the problem. We checked him into the emergency vet clinic yesterday, and they still have him right now. They are giving him meds intravenously and doing periodic x-rays. The last set of x-rays showed that the foamy, gassy mass in his stomach had gone. They are almost ready to say that it’s a stomach ulcer at this point. I’ll be so happy if that is all it is and we can treat him with medication for that. It could have been something much worse.

  12. Oh we hope Ace gets better soon! My girl developed a rare medical issue which the specialists say usually occur in dogs who have severe head trauma (hit by a car etc), all we did was fly overseas. We now have Diabetes Insipidous…water diabetes! Not many have heard of it, ours is a life long condition and she gets eye drops every 12 hours otherwise we go through 50 gallons of water and she has incontninence then. Not sure who was more shocked me or her, at the wet bed when she first slept through wetting the bed! But we have it under control with the drops. Hopefully you can get Ace’s wound to heal up. My pack sends him butt sniffs and wags! 🙂

  13. Lindsay, I am so sorry to hear about Ace’s medical issues. I hope it resolves itself or you get some answers soon. Jake too has had some unexplained medical issues recently that sadly had me contemplating euthanasia. Our frustrating experience consisted of two ER vet visits and three vets giving differing opinions on his diagnosis. Fortunately, after a course of antibiotics and some pain medication, he is doing much better despite not having a definite diagnosis. During the ordeal we did realize though that Jake does not tolerate Tramadol (pain med). It gave him extreme anxiety, which in turn gave me extreme anxiety thinking that he was still in horrible pain. Needless to say we are cherishing every day Jake, who will be 16 in April, is still with us. Give Ace an ear scratch from me.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Thank you so much. I am sorry to hear Jake has had some medical issues lately. I hope he is feeling better and continues to do well.

  14. Thanks for sharing this information. I feel a little sad, but I still have a lot to learn about the miracle of life. I am lately becoming aware of that things couldn’t be taken for granted: taxes can be evaded, but not aging and illness.

    Please do take care.

  15. sorry to hear abt ace. sometimes is pays to get a 2nd opinion or research it yourself. do you have a vet school nearby, maybe you can call them or they have a website with information on things. i have been round and round with things for my oldest gal and i know how it adds up. this past yr i spent over 16k in medical plus. she is 14.5. also some homeopathic solutions will work better than meds.

  16. Hi Lindsay sorry to hear about Ace and his medical problems. I grew up in Zimbabwe and for those sores etc that would not heal I often used aloe vera. Its a shot in the dark but try some aloe vera gel – it can only help and won’t do any harm. Hope Ace gets better soon. (message me if you want any more information )

  17. Hi Lindsay, Fatty Acids help wounds to heal. I give my Staffie evening primrose oil, flaxseed oil or flax-seeds and Omega Plus Finest fish oil by Aliment (a good quality one from Wales) – I mix it with her dry dog food and she happily eats it. After doing so her skin issues have disappeared. My dog is 10 and her gums and skin are healthy. This is vital for cellular repair.

    On adding important fatty acids to my dog’s diet it resolved her skin issues. We were taught about the addition of Fatty Acids to everyone’s diet at the College of Practical Homeopathy in London.

    Wishing Ace improved health.

  18. So sorry you and Ace are going through this. After I had back surgery, a hole developed that would not heal. The wound had to be “packed” with ididiform tape every day so it would heal from the inside out. It took about a month to finally close in. Apparently this is not uncommon in humans, so I bet dogs can develop the same thing (the surgeon taught my husband how to do it at home). Praying for a speedy resolution for Ace.

  19. Hi Lindsay,
    I just went through a “Unknown Illness” this past summer with my cat Smoke. He was 13 and I still miss him so much. I just wanted to wish you and Ace all our love and best wishes. May you both come out the other side of this with happy hearts!!

  20. I would highly recommend a second opinion with Ace, draining tracts like that are rare and very difficult to heal. If there is a fistula, a surgeon may have to remove the whole tract and definitely have that tissue analyzed.

  21. I’m so sorry that Ace and you are going through this. I agree with Jana and Kelly, I would get a second opinion. I ran into some issues with Haley that weren’t getting resolved and decided to get another opinion. The second vet was AAHA certified and was far better at diagnostics and treatment methods and only cost about 10 percent more than my old vet.

    I’m definitely not passing judgement on your vet, just relaying my experience with Haley. On another topic, Haley recently started taking Apoquel for her allergies and the results have been incredible.

    I wish I could give Ace a big hug and I hope you can get him healed up and feeling better very soon. Hang in there. 🙂

  22. I would also try some honey based ointment like L-Mesitran. It has done wonders for my dog when he had a ‘stab wound’ in one paw. It got so badly infected the tissue went fiery red and later black. Antibiotics didn’t do the trick, not after 2 weeks so we started with the honey treatment. It still took a few days of perseverens and trust that it would work, and all of a sudden the wound started healing almost miraculously. If I didn’t take pictures of it, I wouldn’t have believed it myself. It took some time to get the dirt out, remove dead tissue and kill bacteria to start the healing.
    Good luck! (I wouldn’t mind seeing a photo, if you could mail it to me?)

  23. Wow, sure sorry you are having this issue or I should say sorry Ace is. have no solutions but will keep you both in my thoughts and prayers. My dog Henry is in his senior years as well, well we both are, can’t imagine my life without a dog at my feet

  24. Could the wound be a “fistula”? My German Shepherd had one and it was hard to heal. It finally went away after surgery.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I am not really sure at this point. Our vet said no but we might get a second opinion. Glad to hear your dog’s fistula healed up eventually.

  25. 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?

    1. 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

    2. Lindsay Stordahl

      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!

  26. 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?

  27. 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?

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