This post may contain affiliate links, which means that I may receive a commission if you make a purchase using these links, with NO additional cost to you.
First off I am not a veterinarian. I have simply been around animals a long time and had my fair share of abscess draining. At some point if you have animals, you will encounter an abscess. Abscess form when an infection starts under the skin and then the body walls it off to protect itself. These happen often from a bit, scratch, or small wound. Large wounds tend to drain and are quickly noticed, therefore delt with and heal without abscess.
The good news is usually abscess are fairly easy to deal with at home as long as they aren’t to big yet. When in doubt or the abscess feels hard, call your veterinarian. To drain an abscess, you will need a syringe, scalpel blade (hooked works best), gentle iodine, and something to shave the area clean. All of these you can typically find at Tractor Supply or Orschlens.
The first thing you want to do is to feel the abscess (called palpating). You are feeling to see if the abscess is hard or soft. Can you feel the edges? Are they defined or not. Does it feel hot to the touch? You are gathering information that will help you decide if a call to a veterinarian or not and where you should place the cut to drain it.
On question people often ask is does draining the abscess hurt the animal? The best example is like popping a pimple. Does it hurt? A little, but the relief feels wonderful. Most of the time the animal doesn’t even move when you make the cut.
First step is to shave the lower part of the abscess where you will cut (called lancing) the abscess. You want to get rid of most if not all the hair in the area that could catch any of the drainage. If drainage builds up, it will close the drain site before the infection is cleared up.
Second at the BOTTOM of the abscess take your scalpel and make an incision. Size is dependent on the size of abscess and animal. However usually ¼ inch is enough. If the skin is too tough, a large gauge (14 g preferred) needle can work to start the drain. At this point you should be able to gently squeeze the top and have stuff drain out the bottom. If it is liquid, you are in luck! The abscess is recent and hasn’t become heavily infected yet. If it is whiter and cheese consistency, The abscess has been incubating for a while and you may want to consult a veterinarian for antibiotics or more thorough flush.
Third, gently massage the abscess from top to bottom working as much of the fluid out as you can. You want to work all edges and almost dig deep into the tissue to scoop the fluid towards the drain.
Fourth, draw up some of the gentle iodine into a syringe. This is the one part that will tend to burn a bit. Much like your mom cleaning out a nasty cut when you were young. Take the tip of the syringe and insert into the opening you made. Gently squeeze the iodine into the abscess and massage up to completely work it into the abscess cavity. Once the syringe is removed, the iodine will run out and that is ok.
Keep an eye on the abscess, but it will slowly heal up. If you see fluid building back up in the abscess, check the drain site. Reopen if necessary. You can make a small incision in the top and wash the cavity with boiled and cooled water. To do this fill your syringe with the water and insert into the top incision. Slowly move the syringe around, while squeezing the water into the abscess. Then flush with gentle iodine in the same manner. This will flush any debris caught in the cavity out the bottom, kill any bacteria, and allow the abscess to then heal.