Perianal fistulas are most common in German Shepherds, but also occur in other breeds. Clinical signs include difficulty defecating, incontinence, biting and licking of the perianal area, and purulent discharge. Diagnosis is based on physical examination and ruling out other causes of the signs. Cyclosporine is the treatment of choice. Perianal fistula, also termed anal furunculosis, is characterized by chronic, purulent, malodorous, ulcerating, sinus tracts in the perianal tissues. It is most common in German Shepherds or shepherd mixes but may also be seen in other breeds such as Irish Setters and Labrador Retrievers. It most commonly affects middle-aged dogs and has not been reported in cats. The cause is unknown but is suspected to involve an immune-mediated mechanism with a genetic predisposition.
What causes an anal fistula?
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Back to Fact Sheets. Download PDF. The hallmark of the disease is a chronic inflammation and ulceration of the perianal tissues, with progressive development of multiple sinus tracts about the circumference of the anus. The condition is intensely painful for the patient, and straining and crying out when defecating, and persistent licking of the anal area are the most commonly reported clinical signs. Diagnosis of the condition is usually straightforward, on the basis of clinical signs and visual inspection. A variety of theories have been proposed over the years to explain the development of perianal fistulae, although many of these have since been refuted. For example, it was long considered that the low tail carriage and broad-based conformation of the perianal area in the German shepherd contributed to the development of perianal fistulae by maintaining a film of faecal material over the perianal area. Other authors regarded anal sac rupture to be common, and almost certainly implicated in the development of perianal fistulation. Although anal sac abscessation undoubtedly complicates perianal fistulation in some dogs, it is now believed that the anal sac is not a predominant cause of the condition. Current evidence suggests that immunological factors are involved in the primary aetiology, although no simple defect is likely.
What is an anal fistula?
The term "ACVS Diplomate" refers to a veterinarian who has been board certified in veterinary surgery. Only veterinarians who have successfully completed the certification requirements of the ACVS are Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons and have earned the right to be called specialists in veterinary surgery. Your ACVS board-certified veterinary surgeon completed a three-year residency program, met specific training and caseload requirements, performed research and had research published. This process was supervised by ACVS Diplomates, ensuring consistency in training and adherence to high standards. After completing the residency program, the individual passed a rigorous examination. Perianal fistulas are tunnel-like formations in the skin and deeper tissues that surround the anal area of dogs. The lesions vary in severity but at first appear as small oozing holes in the skin.
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