A perianal fistula develops around the dog's anus. A fistula refers to a passage forming between two bodily items that, under normal circumstances, don't connect. The fistula starts draining pus, and in that sense it is similar to a chronic abscess. The condition is also referred to as anal furunculosis.
While any dog can suffer from a perianal fistula, the condition most often occurs in German shepherds. While a perianal fistula can result from various causes, including anal sac infection, food allergies or autoimmune disorders can trigger its appearance. That's why your vet may recommend a special diet as part of your dog's treatment.
Perianal Fistula Symptoms
Suspect the possibility of a perianal fistula if your dog starts:
- Constantly licking his anal region.
- Having defecation problems.
- Experiencing diarrhea or constipation.
- Yelping when defecating.
Blood and mucus in the feces is another sign of perianal fistula, as are small holes in the anal area.
Your vet likely will prescribe anti-inflammatory medications, antibiotics, stool softeners and topical creams to treat your dog. Severely affected dogs may require surgery should the fistula not heal or to ease the animal's pain.
Your vet will recommend dietary changes to help your dog heal and to reduce the odds of the fistula recurring, which are quite high. She may suggest a novel protein diet, a food consisting of one primary ingredient your dog is unlikely to have eaten before. While not hypoallergenic per se, your dog should not have an allergic reaction since he has not previously consumed this protein. Canines require regular consumption of a particular protein before an allergy develops. Common novel protein diets consist of meats such as kangaroo, venison, rabbit or duck.
If your dog is supposed to eat a novel protein diet, that's it. No treats, table scraps or anything else. These can cause an allergic reaction and hinder the attempt to get the perianal fistula under control.
Another dietary choice is a hypoallergenic prescription diet, designed specifically for dogs with food allergies. The best types of hypoallergenic diets consist of hydrolyzed proteins, in which the protein involved are split into miniscule pieces, and the dog's immune system won't go into overdrive and launch an allergic reaction. No matter what type of food your dog ends up eating, it's likely he'll have to stay on a special diet for the rest of his life.
It's not enough simply to purchase a bag of hypoallergenic or a novel protein canine diet off the shelf. You must consult with your veterinarian to find the right food for your particular dog -- all of these single-protein or hypoallergenic diets are not alike.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.