Dog Manual

Swellings On The Body

All swellings on the body are problems for the veterinarian. The commonest types of swellings encountered are abscesses, cysts, hematomas, tumors, hernias, and mumps.


An abscess is a localized collection of pus surrounded by an area of inflammation. It is caused by infection and may occur in any part of the body. In its most common and acute form, it results in a swelling of variable size and becomes increasingly larger as it develops. It is warm and painful to the touch, and becomes increasingly softer as it becomes larger—or, as is commonly said, as it comes to a head. Often abscesses break of their own accord, and in this case all that has to be done is to permit the pus to drain and to keep the area clean with an antiseptic, such as tincture of iodine. Most of the time, however, the veterinarian has to incise the abscess in order to get complete drainage. After this is done, healing is usually very rapid. Though the well-known antibiotics, such as penicillin and aureomycin, have been used with success on many abscesses, the best routine is to have external abscesses incised.

Sometimes abscesses persist for a considerable time and seem to change their character. They become quite painless and cause the animal little or no annoyance. These are called "cold" abscesses and are abscesses in their chronic form. They are treated in much the same way as acute abscesses.


A cyst is a soft, circumscribed, painless swelling that contains a watery accumulation rather than pus and is not usually surrounded by an area of inflammation. It is not warm to the touch, is often translucent, and these facts, along with its lack of tenderness, assist in distinguishing it from an abscess. There are many types of cysts and they may occur in any part of the body. A cyst consists essentially of a sac, and this sac secretes the liquid which the cyst contains. Treatment consists in its complete surgical removal.


A hematoma is a cyst or tumor filled with blood or blood products. It is almost always caused by a sharp blow or severe irritation. The swellings caused by hematomas are usually painless but they might cause discomfort. They may appear on any part of the body though, in the dog, they most commonly appear on the ear. This has been fully discussed in the section on ears. Sometimes they become absorbed by themselves without any treatment. But most often they have to be incised and emptied of their contents before they can be cured.


Tumors are peculiar growths of tissue, of variable size, that most often are neither warm nor sensitive to the touch, may range from hard to quite soft, are fleshy in character, and seem to thrive independently of the state of nutrition of the body. They occur more commonly in older dogs than in younger ones and are a frequent cause of death. They may be present for months or years without any apparent discomfort or detriment to the animal, but are more favorably treated in the early stages.
Tumor of the Breast

Tumors are classified as malignant, in which case they are disease-producing, and benign, in which case they are not disease-producing. Malignant tumors are often accompanied by a gradual wasting away of the body. Portions of them may become disconnected from the tumor, be transported by the circulatory system to other parts of the body, and form new centers of development. Malignant tumors commonly terminate in death. The term "cancer" is applied to malignant tumors. Benign tumors are purely local in character, are not transported to other parts of the body, and generally do not affect the animal's health. Though benign tumors are not disease-producing in themselves, they may contribute to the development of disease conditions because of the locations in which they may appear. Thus a benign tumor of the throat may give rise to symptoms of suffocation. In the abdominal cavity they may pave the way for digestive disorders and other pathological processes. In the limbs they may give rise to lameness.

Various causes have been ascribed to tumors. They have been considered to be the result of prolonged irritations, virus infections, heredity, and so on. No one of these factors has been established as a general cause of tumors. Present theory indicates that though certain of these causes may be related to the origin of individual tumors, they are at best only predisposing factors and not actual causes of the tumor disease complex.

Surgical removal of the growth is usually the most practical method of treatment. Benign tumors are often easily removed in this manner. Malignant tumors are also removed surgically, but recurrence is rather common. Where the tumor is inoperable, it is best to put the animal to sleep.

Great strides are being made in the treatment of tumors. X-ray and radium have been used successfully in arresting the development of tumorous growths. There are also indications that atomic energy may be useful in this regard.


The common name for hernia is rupture. A hernia is a protrusion of an organ or part of an organ out of its normal location through an opening in the surrounding tissue. Most commonly the rupture takes place in the abdominal wall that encases the abdominal organs, and a swelling of variable size appears on the belly or between the hind legs. The rupture in the abdominal wall may be due to injury to this area or to its inherent weakness. There is often a hereditary predisposition to hernia. Though the swelling is usually painless and causes the animal only slight discomfort, it is sometimes very painful. The only treatment is surgical. The herniated organs are put back into the abdominal cavity and the rupture is repaired. In most cases, the operation is not difficult and the results are very favorable.

Mumps refers to a type of abscess that merits special attention. It has to do with the so-called parotid glands, which are salivary glands lying in a diffuse area behind and slightly below the ears. An inflammation of these glands is parotitis, or, as it is popularly known, mumps. It may occur in both acute and chronic forms. In the acute involvement, the outcome is usually favorable, whereas the chronic form is much less responsive to treatment.

Acute cases of mumps may be caused by injury, chemical effects due to the application of irritant drugs, or infection by a specific germ, or it may appear as a secondary manifestation of certain infectious diseases, inflammations of the throat or mouth, and other local inflammations. The chronic form may result from repeated attacks of the acute form or from obstruction of the salivary ducts of the gland.

Though the manifestations usually occur in one gland, both glands may be involved. In the acute form, the affected gland quickly develops a painful swelling that extends to the surrounding tissues. Where infection has been the cause, abscesses develop in the gland. If one gland is involved, the animal holds its head away from the affected side. When both glands are involved, the head is held extended. There is fever, depression, and impaired appetite. Streams of saliva may run out of the corners of the mouth. In the chronic form, the glands appear hard, swollen, and mildly painful, and gen¬eral symptoms are either lacking or not as prominent as in the acute form.

Heat, either by moist packs or infra-red ray, may be applied in the early stages of the disease. When abscesses occur, surgical and antiseptic measures are indicated. In chronic cases, various salutary medications are administered either orally or by injection.