Home Treatment for a Dog Abscess — If It’s a Visible Skin Abscess

If you have to treat a dog abscess at home, work hand-in-hand with your veterinarian, don't do it alone. And be sure it’s a visible skin abscess.

A Chihuahua looking scared.
Lethargic Chihuahua. Photography by pixbull / Shutterstock.

When my Pit Bull Hudson developed an abscess, I didn’t really know what it was. The only kind of “abscess” I’d heard of was the one in my mom’s tooth. So, on the sudden discovery of the swelling in Huddie’s left front leg from shoulder to paw, I frantically jumped online to do research about how to treat a dog abscess at home before heading to the vet. I’ve found that you can often get quicker results with medical issues by searching by image. And there they were — pictures of mostly ruptured dog abscesses, which could make the strongest stomach turn.

First, what is a dog abscess?

A dog looking confused or sad.
Yikes! What exactly is a dog abscess? Photography © JZHunt | Thinkstock.

An abscess is a collection of pus that occurs anywhere on your dog’s body. Causes of a dog abscess include parasites, bites and bacteria. It’s actually protecting the body by localizing an infection. White blood cells move into the area and collect in the tissue.

You’ll usually see a swelling under the skin; if an abscess has formed on top of the skin or the skin has broken away, you would likely see a red, raised bump. And remember, a dog abscess is squishy and warm.

A dog abscess can be painful, so your dog will let you know — but if you have a dog who is pain-tolerant, such as my Hudson, that may not be a good clue.

Does a dog abscess need to be treated by a vet or other professional?

Talk to your vet to determine whether the abscess can be drained and treated at home or needs to be done at the office. The vet will probably still need to see your dog’s abscess and do some tests so he knows what antibiotics to give your dog and discover what is causing the infection. Your dog will need professional treatment if you are not able to be very diligent about keeping things sterile and sanitary, or if it is very large and you cannot drain the abscess on your own. In this case, your vet will make an incision. Surgery may be necessary.

Even if your vet says you can treat the dog abscess at home, it’s best to have your veterinarian show you how to treat it first before you do it at home by yourself. When your dog has a visible skin abscess, it’s always good to have a complete blood test run. Sometimes samples of the pus will need to be taken to evaluate its cause. Internal abscesses must only be treated by your doctor.

How to treat a dog abscess at home

Close up of a dog abscess.
Close up of a dog abscess. Photography by Kelly Pulley.

I had my vet’s blessing to home-treat Hudson, even though his abscess was so huge. Remember that even if you just call your vet or send him pictures, you’ll still need your vet to prescribe a course of antibiotics, which must be finished. (And note that you should always check with your vet first rather than launching into any kind of home medical treatment.)

Home treatment for a dog abscess is likely okay if you are obsessive about making everything sanitary and sterile. Make sure you remember to flush the abscess and apply a wound cream several times a day. Also note that you are not likely to get sick treating the abscess because of the way it looks, feels and smells. Really! We’re talkin’ Essence de Dog Pus here! Often, skin and fur will fall off at first, too, so be sure you can handle that.

Your dog can be easily treated by you if, for example, he’ll let you flush the abscess with saline and stick your finger waaaaaay up into the pocket of the abscess to apply ointment.

Before you begin home treatment for a dog abscess, make sure you have the right tools:

  1. Alcohol. To sterilize your hands whenever you are going to touch the abscess or anything or any area that comes in contact with the abscess’ excretions.
  2. Sterile saline solution. To rinse all those pockets of the abscess.
  3. Wound ointment. My vet gave me an all-natural foam; yours may have a different solution. It also must be sterile.

Follow these instructions for dog abscess home treatment:

  1. Apply pressure and squeeze. If the abscess hasn’t ruptured on its own, apply a warm compress (a towel soaked in warm to hot water) and gently press down and squeeze the abscess. It will probably take quite a few applications to get it to drain depending on the size. Pus will flow like wine when it ruptures, so be sure to have another towel under the abscessed area.
  2. Keep it centered. You may or may not see an accumulation of pus in the center of a pocket. If so, be sure to remove all of this.
  3. Clean like a crazy person. A dog abscess should NOT be covered. It has to heal in the same way as a puncture wound, from the inside out. That means as pus continues to emit from the wound, you’ll have to clean up constantly at first.

More tips on treating an abscess on a dog yourself

  1. Follow your vet’s instructions. My vet told me to rinse the dog abscess twice a day, apply the wound foam once to twice a day, and to make sure Hudson took all of the antibiotic.
  2. Despite all the attention it needs, try not to obsess on the abscess. It takes a long time for a dog abscess to heal. It’s been a month since I started treating Hudson’s and it’s still got a way to go.
  3. You will get to know this abscess intimately. And don’t let the extreme grossness and shocking nakedness of a dog abscess deter you from treating it at home. Think of it as another opportunity to bond with your dog.

Tell us: Has your dog ever had an abscess? Did you treat your dog’s abscess at home or at the vet? Let us know in the comments!

Thumbnail: Photography by pixbull / Shutterstock.

This piece was originally published in 2013.

Read more about home remedies for your dog on Dogster.com:

46 thoughts on “Home Treatment for a Dog Abscess — If It’s a Visible Skin Abscess”

  1. I think they have to say “see a vet” for legal reasons… But they could give SOME advice that is helpful for treating things at home and follow it up with “see a vet” if it doesn’t get better.

    1. If your competent in dealing with medical issues, by all means this is simple enough to do yourself. Why run-up a big vet bill when you don't have to! For post treatment apply Neosporin Maximum Strength Antibiotic after the abscess has drained. I am not referring to an oral (tooth) abscess.

      A tooth abscess would require a prescribed anti-biotin from the vet after the abscess has been drained or the tooth extracted.

      Also washing your hands with alcohol is insane! It does not sterilize, it is very hard on your skin.! Use and anti-bacterial soap and water, washing very well or put a disposable latex glove (or surgical grade glove). I worked in a major hospital as a sterile process technician. I know and understand what makes a item sterilized and alcohol does not. Also you need to understand what the alcohol does to your skin.

  2. Good gracious, PLEASE don’t let an animal suffer because you’re having financial difficulties. Talk with a vet about a payment plan or see if your local animal rescue can help. Start a Go Fund Me, maybe posting in local animal Facebook groups for donations if allowed. And if all else fails and you can’t afford to take care of your animal, maybe you should consider turning it over to a rescue or someone who can. It’s the responsible, humane thing to do.

    1. What Rick said was very helpful. I appreciated it. Rick clearly understands needing access to supplies for basic first aid emergencies. The basic first aid knowledge that every pet owner should know (Rachel) and if a pet owner doesn’t know or is not willing to learn (Rachel), then maybe you should, “give it to the shelter” for someone more suited to take care of a pet in emergencies. Maybe you should learn a little something about pet care. I think that’s why everyone is on here, I also think that if someone is hoping to learn to treat their pet it’s because they love and care of them. So everyone here is quick to rush their pet to the vet. They are here to learn if MAYBE they can treat the issue at home first, when possible and safe, and save the $1000 that you clearly love to throw around. So, “good gracious, rachel” why don’t you go check out amazon or something while the people here try to learn some possible safe tips to help there beloved pet not be in pain.

      1. Agreed. Also, most people are aware of the financial responsibility of being a dog owner, and this was confirmed not an issue when they welcomed the dog home. Sometimes crap happens during one's lifetime which puts them in a financial strain and because such is life, sometimes things happen to our beloved dogs at the same time.

        As part of being a dog's forever home, you commit to keeping and taking care of a dog regardless of your personal situation. Unless I absolutely had to (i.e., lost a job with no foreseeable income in the future – which would only be possible if I chose to not get another job), the last thing I'd do is bring my dogs to a shelter.

        If I had the option to treat myself and avoid a large vet bill, I have no shame in opting into that. One of dogs ripped his paws up from running too much on gravel that was at a dog park. Superficial wounds so I treated them myself as instructed by other dog owners online (as well as on-call medical advice through pet insurance) and made sure to keep them clean and wrapped up with clean bandages when necessary – put a cone on him for a bit to prevent him from licking his paws when they were no longer in bandages. Supplies were about $20 and could have easily been hundreds of dollars to treat at a vet clinic. My dog's paws healed perfectly.

        I had to bring him to an emergency vet clinic when he was constantly vomitting phlegm and eventually blood mixed in. THAT I knew I couldn't treat at home. It turns out he ate something his stomach didn't agree with so he just kept vomitting to get rid of it and the blood was from inflammation due to the constant action of vomitting. $900 and an additional $50 for prescriptions (pain relief and laxatives). He was fine after a few hours and never needed the prescriptions.

        As Sarah said, if you're happy with throwing around $1000 for things that can be treated at home for less, then by all means, do it. The best pet parents, however, are those who are willing to learn pet care so they can actually CARE for them instead of constantly going to the vet as if they don't know how to care their injuries or illnesses.

  3. Telling desperate people”hey just go to the vet” seems like an automated bot reply.
    To anyone, go to a farm supply or feed seed a d get a bottle of penicillin-G and 22gauge syringe for about $15. Deep muscle injection get the dosing based on iu concentration and body weight. 3cc every 24 hours for my 75lb labrador retriever

    1. Thank you. That was very helpful, Rick. I appreciate it. You, Rick, clearly understand needing access to supplies for basic first aid emergencies. The basic first aid knowledge that every pet owner should know (Rachel) and if a pet owner doesn’t know or is not willing to learn (Rachel), then maybe you should, “give it to the shelter” for someone more suited to take care of a pet in emergencies.

  4. My dog doesnt have a bump but she has alot of pus coming out from her skin and i gues where the pus dryed is a big green buble looking scab

  5. Agree with Billie. sometimes you should give home advice when its not a life threatening situation. not everyone can afford 1,000 plus to surgically remove an abscess

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  10. My mobile groomer came today to cut my 5 Chihuahuas nails/ anal glands…. noticed a boil? Pimple? On one of their butts? Looks like it is ready to “pop” nothing came out when light pressure was applied. Was suggested to apply warm any wipe…. do I attempt to squeeze it? Or should I make Vet appointment?

    1. Hi there Robin,

      Thanks for commenting! We suggest taking your dog to the vet to have a professional take a look.

      1. You are the reason people home remedy. All you can say is take to vet asap how about vets share remedies with the public instead of insisting on ridiculous amounts of money in 21. Per 45 seconds. Ridiculous when you probably never need to attend a vet as you are 1 obviously

        1. Hi there Craige,

          Thank you for the feedback. We encourage our readers to see a vet so a professional can examine their pets. At Dogster, we share helpful articles with suggestions and advice from professional veterinarians as we are not vets ourselves. If you would like to see more articles on veterinarian suggested home remedies, please contact us through this link so we can take your request and put it to work:

          Do you need to Connect with Dogster?

          1. every article ive read here offer no tips!!! it just says see vet!!! i mean really!!! show me 1 article where u suggest a helpful tip for a home remedy!!!!

  11. Go to the feed store or online and get “fish flex” version of. Cephalixin it’s the same antibiotic your veterinarian will prescribe Runs about 25 dollars, it should start getting better within days but takes a couple weeks of treatment to clear, if it doesn’t show improvement with antibiotics quickly take them to the Vet. Use your better judgment. Good luck !

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  13. Great article, I was looking up something else dog related and found it. I wanted toadd, (1) that a wound doesn’t have to look infected to be infected, so it’s important to check ANY wounds carefully. 1 of my dogs got into a fight with a stray, & lost. He had several nasty cuts I was taking care of, & giving him amoxicillin for. He had 1 on his back that had been healing great, it scabbed over right away, no swelling, or tenderness at all. After 4 days, I noticed there was some dirt caked around the outside of the wound, so I started picking it off with my nails, while my dog stretched out & enjoyed a back scratch, I picked a little to far & peeled up a tiny little piece of scab, & immediately TONS of pus came almost shooting out. I immediately started draining it. Once drained I got a good look & the wound wasn’t just infected but abscessed, it had formed an giant, kinda rectangular, abscess pocket that took up almost half of his back! it was horrifying! If I hadn’t decided to scratch the dirt off, & accidentally opened the scab a smidge he probably would’ve died. & it was so simple to treat, I drained it & filled the wound with triple antibiotic, & covered it with a bandage, every 4 hours after that, I removed the bandage, cleaned with peroixde if it looked dirty, & gently filled the wound with a mix of about 75% triple antibiotic, 25%cortisone cream. By the next day the “pocket” was almost closed up & I switched to refreshing bandgaes every 6-8 hours. I know we all learned a long time ago that we shouldn’t pick scabs, but when the wound is on an animal, that tries to not show they are in pain, it might be the only way 2 be sure a wound is healing properly, & you really only need to remove the tiniest piece of scab to check ( if it’s infected pus & similar fluids will be visable.) & if it’s not infected, the wound should be 100% closed again in no time.
    BTW, for those of us that are struggeling financially, at your next vet visit it can’t hurt to ask the vet if he wouldn’t mind teaching you a few basic things like 1st aid for dogs, wound care, ( it was a vet that taught me to use triple antibiotic & cortisone on wounds for example, I had a great vet that taught me several things.) What OTC things you can use on your pet (it’s a good idea to have 1st aid kit specifically for our pets with things you know will be safe to use on them). The vet might not be willing to teach you, or he might be happy to teach you. In any event you are paying for his time, so he shouldn’t have a problem with you asking. Knowing a few things can save you a lot of money, & help your animal immensely. If you find a wound on your dog after the vet closes 1 night, knowing how to properly clean & dress it until you can see the vet in the morning can make the difference between a regular wound, and an infected wound.

  14. My little blu has anal glands problems back in june 2017 took him to the vet she took care of it.It has happened again this time it come out and busted how to treat him at home can’t afford to take him back help?

    1. Hi there,
      Sorry to hear you’re experiencing this. Your best bet is to work with your vet. Here are some articles on dog anal gland issues:

      Here’s some info on finding affordable vet care, too:

    2. My girl had anal gland problems. 1 tsp of pumpkin once a week in their food and she doesnt have the problems anymore. Just a tip!

  15. I just found a abscess on my Pyrenees’s back hip. It was already ruptured though. I’ve been eyeballing it for days because she was at the groomer and got shaved. I thought it was a mosquito bite…then it turned dark red. I was going to call the vet tomorrow when I got paid. Needless to say I’ve drained abscesses on my cats before. So I put of latex gloves and went to work squeezing. To my surprise Luna not only let me do it she seemed to not enjoy it but appreciate it. She didn’t nip or try to stop me. She leaned into my legs. Now I’ve got a warm wet washcloth on it that I’ve got a small out of soap on it. I will of course keep a very good eye on it and put 200 dollars aside just in case we need to get to her doggie doctor. I’m glad I found this article, I was going to slather it in Neosporin with pain relief and put a gauze on it. However, my question is she keeps licking it, should I pit a cone of shame on her so she doesn’t infect it with mouth germs? Please replay to my email or find me on Facebook. I am on my phone and have no clue how to bookmark your page. Thank you

  16. Our spaniel Harry has had three lots of antibiotics and finally an operation to sort out the abscess on his paw but its still there. I feel we need to look after him ourselves and have 10 days before we go on holiday and leave him with a friend. What is the best we can do at home to help him?

    1. Hi Wilma,
      We suggest asking a vet the best way to continue his care when you’re away. Hope your dog feels better!

    2. Hi All,
      My pet Cesar is suffering from Abscess where her thigh front foot right and left is collected with pus and she is licking again and again she is feeling dull having food normally what medication need to be given to make her normal for that issue. Cesar age is 13 now. Could you please prescribe medicines and ointment for training my pet at home i can purchase medicines.

  17. Valerie A. Jackson

    My 10 year old long haired German Shepherd now has another large abscess right under her armpit. She has had three very large abscesses, one after the other, 2 years ago which I treated at home due to financial restraints. After the third “nursing of the abscess” I put her on a homemade diet consisting of boiled chicken, white sweet potato, rice, tablespoon Golden Paste (I make at home). I believe that 2 years ago when she had back to back abscesses in same place that on third abscess compress I am pretty sure the puss pocket expelled a foxtail (looked at it under a high powered microscope) The other abscesses were on her underside near her heart area on her chest so I could apply hot compress until it burst. This one is under her armpit so I have no idea how I am going to apply a hot compress for possibly 8 hours. She is overweight, suffers from arthritis and hip dysplasia therefore her activity level is very low.
    Any ideas or suggestions on how I can apply hot compress for hours at a time in such a difficult spot? Thanks in advance! I live alone with a disability so she is extremely loved and very close to me.

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  19. Bernadette Strickland

    My dog has an infected cyst. It keeps bleeding. My vet just drained it covered it and gave him antibiotics. Its seeping through the bandage. Does anyone have any advice.

  20. For some of us after paying the vet$700 this month in a dog bite surgery going to the vet is not an option. I am handicapped and disabled so your information in at home care is greatly appreciated.

  21. I would like to know that answer as well as i have a dog with an abcess that i am treating at home due to financial reasons.

  22. My dog has an abcess on the pad of his paw. It’s painful for him and he’s been limping for several days. I’ve been soaking his foot for about 15 min in an epsom salt bath a few times per day. Today the abcess popped and a little pus was released. I’ve been spraying the area with a natural product called Aromadog antiseptic blend. With continued soaking, with the abcess clear up on its own or do I need to visit the vet?

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