Prevention of Decubital Ulcers in Dogs
There are many different ways to prevent decubitus ulcers from forming. These specialized surfaces include foam devices, air-filled devices, inflatable airbeds or even water beds that have the ability to be heated.
Placing a dog in deep straw may also provide excellent support and avoid ulcers. However, all incisions must be healed or covered if this method is used. One of the best types of padded bedding for recumbent dogs is a thick, egg-crate foam rubber pad with a vinyl covering. A sheepskin cover on the mat allows some air circulation under the animal, and wicks urine away from the skin. Changing the dog’s position every 2 to 5 hours from the left side to sternal and then to the right side also helps prevent prolonged pressure on areas predisposed to ulcers. Using a sling for 2 to 4 hours a day can help keep pressure off the acromion of the scapula, tuber coxae, and greater trochanter, especially in large dogs.
Dog wheelchairs, like handicappedpets.com’s newly patented, veterinarian approved ‘Walkin’ Wheels” are highly recommended. The Walkin Wheels’ dog wheelchair is lightweight, easy to use and fully portable. These devices support the pelvic area in paraparetic or paraplegic dogs, thereby keeping pressure off the bony prominences of the hindquarters, stimulating neural response, maintaining muscle tone, improving circulation, respiratory system health and even mental health as it provides mobility. During these times, isotonic muscle activity is occurring. Placement of limbs in correct physiological position helps stretch the muscles and tendons appropriately to prevent contracture.
Slings can also be used to support the full body, hind end only, or thoracic end only as needed. The use of slings will also allow movements such as walking, which help muscle tone and “memory.” Water is another means of allowing an animal to stand with support. Since the animal will be able to swim in the water, or walk if it is equipped with an underwater treadmill with little stress on the pet’s joints. Animals in any water tank should be adequately supported to prevent aspiration of water or stress associated with fear of drowning.
Bandages with splints can also be very helpful in preventing pressure sores. Elbow splints and side splints are good examples.An elbow splint, often made with foam pipe tubing with a hole over the wound itself if a sore has already formed, prevents the pet from bending the elbow to help prevent pressure and movement, and a side splint can be incorporated into a body bandage to help prevent ulcers on the hips of pets that attempt to sit.
Massage is particularly important to keep good circulation to the muscle and tissue, to help alleviate muscle cramping and provide neural stimulation to the spinal cord.
Prevention of ulcers also requires meticulous care of hair and skin over bony prominences. The areas must be kept 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.