If you’re the pet parent of a paralyzed dog, especially a big dog, you know the dangers of pressure sores (decubital ulcers). They are sores or open areas that develop over bony pressure points. A dog that is paralyzed loses muscle mass and if they lie in one position for a long period of time the blood supply to the area is cut off causing damage and sores to the skin. This weekend I learned about abscess, the dangerous complication of pressure sores when my dog Cody had to be hospitalized for one.
Cody is not paralyzed, but he is a senior citizen with an autoimmune disease that has made him lose a lot of muscle mass. Cody has Inflammatory Bowel Disease which is like Ulcerative Colitis in people. He loves to lie on his right side and because of that he developed a pressure sore on his hip. We’ve been treating it for the past two months. I have to say that it’s been harder treat Cody for his pressure sore than it was for Sophie. With a paralyzed dog, I simply turned her from side to side to relieve pressure and she stayed where I put her. Because Cody can move around on his own, he won’t stay on a padded bed that will protect his pressure sore. He prefers the cool tile floor. So his decubitus has taken longer to heal.
Last week Cody’s right hip began to swell and he was uncomfortable. One night he started to pant heavily and couldn’t find a comfortable place to sleep. The next morning he refused to eat or move. He was in serious pain so we went to see our veterinarian.
I suspected Cody had developed an abscess and the vet agreed. The plan was to lance the area and let it drain, but when she tried to do it no fluid came out of the wound. The veterinarian thought the problem might be cancer so she took a biopsy and sent us home with an antibiotic, pain meds and a lot to worry about.
Two very restless days later Cody’s body took over and released the bacteria from the abscess on its own. Basically his body popped two big holes through the skin on his hip and fluid poured out. It was an extremely painful experience for him.
He had to be hospitalized to make sure the bacteria hadn’t travelled into his blood or organs.
We were very lucky. Cody quickly bounced back. We found the right antibiotic, his appetite is back and this morning he wanted to go for a walk.
Because abscesses are such a common complication to pressure sores here are a few things you should know about them.
Signs and Symptoms
- An abscess is a walled off fibrous capsule under the skin that feels firm. It travels deep into the skin causing a serious and painful infection.
- An abscess develops when bacteria enters through the opening of a pressure sore. The two most common types of bacteria are Pasteurella multocida and Staphylococcus intermedius.
- An abscess kills the tissue surrounding the pressure sore and can infect the blood.
- There will be signs of swelling around or near the pressure sore if the abscess is growing outward toward the skin. Some abscesses move deeper into the body and attack internal organs. These must be diagnosed through an ultra-sound or MRI.
- An abscess is painful so dogs will pant heavily, pace, lick the area and show obvious signs of discomfort.
- If bacteria travels into the bloodstream dogs will become lethargic, refuse food and run a fever.
- When an abscess bursts the wound will drain a pinkish red pus or sometimes a green fluid.
- The wound will be lanced, properly cleaned, drained and flushed to prevent the bacteria from going deeper into the body.
- Blood will be drawn so the exact bacteria can be identified.
- The wound is left open so it will continue to drain for several days. Additional cleaning and flushing may be recommended once the dog is home. Hot or cold packs to relieve inflammation might be prescribed. Dogs are prescribed antibiotics and pain medication.
- If the abscess is still encased it might be surgically removed to prevent it from rupturing. Abscesses can rupture both externally and internally.
- If the abscess has entered the bloodstream dogs will be hospitalized to prevent or treat for sepsis.
- Do not let a paralyzed dog lie in one position for long periods of time. Make sure to turn them over every couple of hours.
- Place your paraplegic dog lies on a well-padded thick soft bed.
Has your paraplegic dog had an abscess from a pressure sore? I’d love to hear your story.