There aren’t a whole lot of things that give me pause when it comes to blogging about dogs. I’ll talk to you about slobber, poop, pee, and vomit without batting an eye. One of my dogs, though, has what I call a weird butt hole and I’ve been sitting on this (hahaha) for about a month now, wondering if I should talk about it on the blog. Clearly, I’ve decided to talk about it, so here we go.
Tango, my favorite boy ever, has been having trouble pooping. I deemed him an “unproductive pooper” because he’d sometimes try and try, but only produce a tiny bit. For all the effort he was putting in, there wasn’t much return on investment, you know? Lately, though, he’d been even less productive and was putting more effort into the process, sometimes not producing anything. And he was beginning to be quite messy “back there.”
When I made the appointment at the veterinary hospital, they asked what problem Tango was having. Not having any idea what to say (“he has trouble pooping?” — is that really a problem?), I replied “Well, his butt hole is weird.” They took me at my word and scheduled the appointment.
The veterinarian took a look and agreed that his butt hole was indeed weird. (My words not hers, of course). Her words were “perianal fistula.”
What is perianal fistula?
It’s a serious medical condition that most commonly affects German shepherd dogs (obviously other purebred dogs are susceptible, too). A fistula is an abnormal connection between two tissues, organs, or vessels that don’t normally connect.
What are the signs?
“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 (anorexia) 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.”
We didn’t have decreased appetite (he is a Labrador, after all), excessive licking, or any aggression. But we had everything else. The cause isn’t fully understood, but the condition could be related to an autoimmune problem.
How is it treated?
Back in ye olden days, dogs tails were often amputated because it was thought that a lack of air circulation led to the condition. Thankfully, there’s a little more (but not much) known about the condition and there are several courses of action that are most often prescribed. Because it may be an allergy or autoimmune issue, a hypoallergenic food trial is recommended. Topical tacrolimus helps to reduce the activity of the immune system (and has really seemed to help Tango’s condition significantly so far). In addition, ketoconazole and cyclosporine are often prescribed together. Because the condition is often very painful, veterinarians also integrate pain management in their treatment plan. Also, if there’s an infection, antibiotics are often prescribed, as well. Sometimes, none of the treatment solutions work and surgery is necessary. From what I’ve read, surgery is a last-ditch effort and comes with a bevy of risks and complications. I’m not a veterinarian, so please don’t rely on me for veterinary information, advice, or treatment. Take your dog to your veterinarian if you think something’s not quite right with your dog!
We’re staying on the course of specialty diet, tacrolimus, pain management, stool softeners, and frequent cleaning of the <ahem> affected area. He is now pooping more normally, with normal effort, and normal output. His butt hole is a lot less weird now, although it’s under constant watch.
Have you ever been embarrassed to tell your veterinarian what’s going on with your dog? Leave a comment and let us know!