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Pressure Sores & Your Pet: How to Treat Decubitus Ulcers in Dogs

If you have a dog with a mobility problem, you need to know about pressure sores in dogs. Decubital ulcers are typically caused by excessive pressure, usually occurring on the bony part of a pet’s hip. Very similar to bed sores in humans, a pressure sore is typically caused when a pet is laying in one place for too long, or from repeated trauma as a pet lowers themselves to the ground. Decubital ulcers are difficult to treat and can become a chronic condition that requires significant care and treatment.

What Causes Pressure Sores on Dogs?

senior dog mobility

Like bed sores in a human being, these ulcers are a serious concern with any pet that is immobilized for extended periods of time. Older dogs and disabled pets are prone to lying still for long periods of time and without muscle mass to protect them, ulcers and sores can form.

Pets with loss of feeling or sensation in their limbs are also at risk for developing sores. And in older, weaker pets who are unable to gently sit or lie down, but instead drop heavily on the floor. Causing repeated trauma to a specific area, like an elbow or hip.

Typically, pressure sores are shallow wounds that affect only the skin’s upper layers. Decubital ulcers form when repeated pressure on an affected area constricts the blood vessels, decreasing the area’s blood supply and as the skin is deprived of oxygen, it begins to die. Ulcers and pressure wounds can affect any dog breed at any age however, most commonly occurs in larger breed dogs.

Pressure Sore Symptoms in Dogs

Bed sore wounds are fairly obvious to the naked eye and most commonly occur on the boniest parts of a dog such as hips, elbows, hocks, knees, chest or side of the legs. Pressure sores are a chronic condition that is difficult to treat and harder to heal.
Pay attention to these symptoms:

  • Stained hair at the site of a wound
  • Skin discoloration
  • Patchy hair loss
  • Patches of skin with reddish pads or thickened skin
  • Fluid-filled area on your dog’s boniest parts
  • Ulcer, abscess or open wounds
  • Constant licking of the affected area

Any open wounds that are red or purple, seeping pus, or smell require immediate veterinary care. If you suspect your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms, see your Veterinarian immediately.

Prevention of Decubital Ulcers in Dogs

Once formed, pressure wounds are extremely difficult to treat, and prevention is key.

Improve Mobility with a Dog Wheelchair

Small Mixed Breed Wheelchair for Molly

The Walkin’ Wheels keeps your dog moving, active and a part of the family. A Walkin’ Wheels wheelchair supports your pet from underneath, keeping your dog upright and taking pressure off the bony prominences of the hindquarters. The mobility benefits include improved respiratory health, increased muscle tone, improved circulation and works wonders on your dog’s mental health. An active dog is a happy dog!

Get Your Dog Back on their Feet

Support your dog with a lifting harness by helping them to stand or gently lower themselves to the ground. Slings and lifting harnesses are designed to support your pet and can be used to lift the full body or just the rear or front end. Lifting harnesses are a quick, easy way to get your dog back on their feet and can help make potty breaks a breeze. And they are also a great way to get your dog upright and moving again!


Massage therapy is particularly important to keep good circulation to your pet’s muscle and tissue. Regular massage helps alleviate muscle cramping and provides neural stimulation to the spinal cord.

Comfortable Bedding

Soft bedding that is thick and well-padded will prevent future trauma. If you your dog is mobility challenged or prone to laying down for extended periods of time, your pet should be physically turned or change its position every two to three hours.

Treating Your Dog’s Pressure Sores

Not only do decubital ulcers cause pain and disfigurement, the condition can become chronic and expensive to treat. And if left untreated they can possibly become life threatening. It’s important to receive medical treatment as soon as possible and treat any open wounds cautiously.

Skin Care

To prevent ulcers, your pet requires meticulous care of their hair and skin over and around the boniest parts of your dog. Keep at risk areas clean, dry and free of urine or feces. Desitin (zinc oxide) may prove helpful in keeping the skin soft and protected from urine.

Skin inspection, excellent hygiene, and good nutrition are all very important in preventing decubital ulcers. Reducing skin moisture form urine is important to help prevent the bacterial growth and skin degradation that contribute to pressure sores. Sheepskin pads are quite effective for this purpose. In addition, warm whirlpool baths, frequent sponge baths and clipping the perineal and abdominal area help keep the area clean, especially in incontinent dogs.

Keep Incontinent Pets Dry

Frequently change diapers and male wraps. Extended wear of a wet diaper can lead to irritated skin, urine burns and ulcers forming. For overnight incontinent pets can rest on a raised bed, which allows urine to pass freely through its mesh bed to a separate collection try underneath. This will keep your pet dry and comfortable all night long.

Pressure Sores

Try not to let the dog rest on the hip bone on one side for very long, reposition your pet every 2-3 hours. It’s recommended to keep weight off the pressure sore until it is fully healed. Even healed, the skin at will be significantly weaker than normal and close inspection of the area and supervision of the animal is warranted.

Recovering from a skin ulcer takes time and depending on the severity, it can take anywhere from several weeks to several months to heal.

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  1. I have a patient with calluses and ulcers on her arms/legs and I was looking for a good client education handout when I came across this article. I wanted to compliment how well-written, thorough, and accurate this article is. Thank you so much for publishing this!

    • Dr. Evans thank you so much for reaching out and I’m glad you found the article helpful. Please let us know if we can help you in the future.

  2. The paws of a dog are an extremely important part of the body. The paws assist dogs in all activities, including standing, walking, jumping, and running.

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