When caring for a sick or injured dog, owners must be careful that their recuperating pet does not develop bedsores. Caused by the long-term application of pressure to a localized area, you can prevent bedsores by giving your pet a well-padded bed and encouraging him to move periodically. You may even need to lift and shift him, if he is unable to do so. While bedsores are easy to treat if discovered early, you should solicit your veterinarian’s advice as soon as possible to prevent serious complications.
Also called pressure sores or decubitus ulcers, bedsores usually occur on a dog’s knees or elbows, although they also can form on a dog’s wrists, near the base of his tail, on his shoulder or over his sternum. When the dog places weight on these locations for extended periods of time, it can cut off the blood blow to the area, leading to the development of a bedsore. In most cases, dogs develop gray-colored, hairless calluses in these regions, but some develop into bedsores. Unlike typical calluses, bed sores look like a yellow- or red-fluid filled bruise or an open ulcer. In extreme cases, these ulcers can penetrate deeply, exposing the bone.
Provide your pet with a comfortable surface on which he can lay, such as a bed or cushion. Orthopedic beds are designed to prevent bedsores from developing, and can be obtained through your vet or via commercial avenues. If your pet is recovering from an injury or illness and unable to move himself, adjust his position every few hours. Additionally, you can help prevent bedsores by moving the limbs of your dog if he is unable. This will increase the amount of blood circulation to his extremities and reduce the chances that sores will develop.
Always contact a veterinarian when you notice bedsores. Minor sores may be simple to treat through the application of a bandage and by providing a soft place for your dog to rest. If your dog’s wounds are open, your veterinarian likely will instruct you to place a topical antibacterial ointment on the wound and change the bandages regularly. Especially deep wounds may require surgical treatment. Do not provide additional padding under the areas in which bedsores develop. This can create more pressure on the damaged tissues, exacerbating the problem; instead, simply ensure his bed cushions his entire body.
Predisposition for Bedsores
While all dogs can develop bedsores, some breeds are more likely to suffer from them than others. Large breeds with short hair are at the greatest risk, so always observe Great Danes, Labrador retrievers, cane corsos, rottweilers, mastiffs and other large breeds carefully. Additionally, because they can suffer from rear leg paralysis, Pekingese and dachshunds are at increased risk of developing bedsores.
- DOGS Victoria: Pressure Sores (PDF)
- Col. Potter Cairn Rescue Network: Caring for a Sick or Injured Dog After Treatment
- Veterinary Partner: Paralyzed Dogs: How to Care for Them
- Dog Health Doc: Does Your Dog Get Pressure Sores?
- Canidae Natural Pet Food Company:
- Pet Wave: Symptoms of Pressure Sores in Dogs
- Auburn University: Decubitus Ulcers in Animals (PDF)