His name is Kulow, and he’s our protector at LWH, big, attentive, territorial, and, yes, aggressive. We do not celebrate the aggressiveness, it just came with him. In fact, much time and energy has been spent on managing the aggressiveness that was innate and part of his breed. He is very protective of his yard and will not tolerate large dogs or bossy little dogs. We still love him immensely…
The love of Kulow is how I tolerate the management of his perianal fistulas, tiny fissures in his rectum that can become infected and cause great discomfort. We initially suspected anal gland infection to be the root cause of his discomfort and overattention to his rectum. Upon sedation for anticipated anal gland removal, the surgeon diagnosed him with perianal fistulas instead.
I found a good breakdown of the condition at the American College of Veterinarian Surgeons website, www.acvs.org. If you are truly interested in what it looks like, you can take a look at some actual pictures. WARNING: Take a peek after you have eaten your lunch…
Overview of the Condition
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. These holes may become wide and deep and surround the entire circumference of the anus. Although this condition can occur in any dog, German shepherds are most commonly affected (80% of cases). Perianal fistulas may cause severe pain and discomfort and, if not controlled, may be responsible for a dramatic reduction in quality of life. This disease shows many similarities to Crohn’s disease in people.
Affected animals may present with painful defecations, constipation, diarrhea, mucus or blood in stools, or excessive licking and biting of the anus. Chronic pain in the affected area may make the animal restless and to cry every time it is about to defecate. Some affected dogs will struggle or try to bite when their tails are lifted.
The German shepherd breed is over represented. Position of their tail, which is often carried low between the hip bones, covering the anus, is thought to be a predisposing factor (broad-base tail theory). Affected dogs may have concurrent chronic small or large intestinal diarrhea because of inflammatory bowel disease; in fact, the two conditions may be related.
So, GSDs are over represented and prone to this disease. The surgeon let me know that he stopped counting and cauterizing at around fifteen while Kulow was under, but that the holes seemed to be “in good condition.” He is on a drug therapy including an oral anti-inflammatory and antibiotic. Sadly, our funds simply don’t allow for the premium treatment with topical Tacrolimus, which is around $200 monthly. I have to wipe his anus daily and keep it dry with baby powder, which seems to be going well once he got over the initial reaction to what I was doing to him–believe me, it’s no fun for me either, Kulow, but it has to be done and do it we shall. These fistulas can become a major discomfort, so much so that quality of life can become an issue. At approximately eleven years of age and in the beginning stages of renal disease, we hope to manage them so well that his kidneys fail before the fistulas overtake him. We don’t need Kulow to protect us, but he needs us to protect, and I hope to have my big guy around for years to come.