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Wednesday, 16 September 2009

In the genes?

My German Shepherd, Monty, suffers from Anul Furunculosis, for which he gets Nizora half an hour before food and Atopica two hours after food - twice per day.
We were told that this disease is genetic in the German Shepherd breed. Is this correct? Is he on the best of treatment and should he be fed a special diet?
Monty is on his second lot of treatment in the last 12 months and we have been told the outlook is not good. Please could someone advise us and give us some hope.
Mr J S Booth, Barnsley, Yorkshire

Richard Allport advises:
Anal furunculosis is thought to be a hereditary autoimmune disease and is a condition seen almost exclusively in German Shepherd Dogs, or GSD crosses. An autoimmune disease is one in which the immune system goes haywire and mistakenly attacks normal healthy body tissue – in this case the area around the anus.
It is not, however, quite as simple as that. The anatomy of a GSD predisposes to the condition – the tail is held down and very close against the anal area, rather than held up as in may breeds, so there is little natural ventilation reaching the anal region. Anal furunculosis often seems to be associated with other conditions such as colitis, pancreatic insufficiency and hypothyroidism. It is evidently a very complex problem.
Treatment can include antibiotics, surgery or cryosurgery to remove diseased tissue, steroids and other immune suppressive drugs such as Atopica (Cyclosporin). Nizoral is often prescribed alongside Atopica, not because it has a therapeutic effect on the furunculosis as such, but because it means a lower dose of Atopica can be given. As Atopica is a very expensive drug, this is useful from an economic point of view. None of this treatment is curative, and drug side-effects from the suppression of the immune system are always likely.
Diet is a controversial topic. There are some dogs that seem to benefit from a wheat free diet. Indeed, some benefit even more from a totally carbohydrate free diet. Naturally, any diet that produces formed but softish stools may help a dog that has this problem, since passing stools can be painful. Adding Psyllium husks to the diet can help achieve this. I find that dietary supplements such as Zinc, Vitamin E and Aloe Vera can be helpful.
So my advice for Monty, or any dog afflicted by anal furunculosis, is to feed a wheat free and low carbohydrate diet, with Psyllium husks, Vitamin E, Zinc and Aloe Vera as beneficial supplements. Also to bathe affected areas several times a day with salt water, and apply Manuka honey which helps promote healing and keep infection at bay. Try and avoid immunosuppressive drugs if at all possible, maybe look at herbal and homeopathic medicines as an adjunct or an alternative. Avoid vaccination or any other drugs or treatments that might further damage the immune system.
I do wish Monty good luck and good health for the future.

Gail Gwesyn-Pryce, Dogs Today Breed Advisor, says…
The cause of anal furunculosis is not known but it appears to be connected to irritable bowel syndrome and autoimmune conditions. Drug therapy is usually only a temporary cure and the condition often needs freezing or surgery. The condition can also be seen between the toes but this is much more difficult to treat.
The anal type is rather like fistula in people, in or around the anus which on close examination can be seen as tiny holes and it is when it takes hold underneath that freezing or surgery are recommended. Homeopathic remedies have been found to be very helpful in the early stages. I would strongly advise that you look up Canine Health Concern who can give you lots of help regarding general health problems and a resource link for such things as garlic and colloidal silver, both of which could be beneficial.
The Royal Veterinary College is undergoing a research project to try and identify the genes involved. A leaflet on the subject can be obtained from the German Shepherd Owners Information Centre. Contact Chris on 01223 298216, email or Dorothy on 01277 220933, email
As for diet I would always recommend a good fresh, raw food diet for all GSDs – firmer stools would be important so that no residue is left behind to further compromise the anus and of course chemical diets can have an effect on the immune system. I suspect that Monty has other medical problems, perhaps dermatitis as this often goes hand in hand.
I have no first-hand experience of this condition so it is difficult for me to comment further, however I believe there is also a strain of Leonbergers that carry this condition so it may be worth contacting their breed club to see if they have any suggestions.
Please make sure you inform Monty’s breeder so that he/she is aware of this condition in their line so they can take steps to eliminate it from their breeding programme.


  1. There probably is a genetic predisposition to anal furunculosis in the breed; as far as I know the GSD seems to be the only breed which gets it. But that does not mean that you are stuck with it. We at Burns Pet Nutrition have seen good results with Burns foods fed according to the advice of our nutrition team. The condition is a chronic inflammatory condition and correct nutritioni can often help.
    Best wishes
    John Burns BVMS MRCVS

  2. The Gsd Info Group has research at present being followed on this and other Autoimmune problems. It appears that the GSD is not the only breed which suffers from this problem. Leonbergers are another.
    Research has found that certain genes have broekn down and the treatment which Vets advise are antibiotics and Atopica/ Cyclosporin.
    It has also been noted that contiuation of one of the two above is not a good thing.
    Is your dog insured?
    If so it is best to get a referral to the RVC where your Monty could be treated.
    The proceedure is an 8 week treatment of the drug and then an operation to remove the offending tissue, then another treatment.
    This has been very successful.
    Fibre is important in the diet as John suggests but although a help is not a miracle cure.
    Keep your dog clean and this means backend feet and mouth. (you know why).
    If you wish to know who the researchers is who is succeeding in this probblem, please go to and go to contacts send me an email and I will give you the person for your vet to contact. Dorothy

  3. My GSD also had Anal Furunculosis and I ended up having to put him down due to his body collapsing with the medication. He was only 8 years old. Can you please advise what percentage of GSD's end up with the disease? No one is prepared to put a percentage on it which I find strange? I never want to go through that experience again as it is very painful for the dog.