Does your paraplegic dog have trouble with urine scald? It’s a frustrating underlying problem for many dogs with spinal disease and spinal injuries. Urine scald can be difficult to treat and prevent, but there are techniques you can use to relieve your dog’s discomfort.
Paralyzed dogs are extremely prone to urinary incontinence. It happens for several different reasons that depend on where the source of their spinal problem lies. Dogs with lesions or injuries at the waist or higher will have “excessive bladder tone” and need to have their bladder manually expressed at least 3 times a day. If it is not expressed on a regular basis, these dogs face the problem of an overflowing bladder or an over-stretched bladder which can lead to urine scald and urinary tract infections. This was the type of incontinence my dog, Sophie, had. I’ve written before about how I expressed her bladder 4 times a day and about our schedule. You can read about it here: Prevent Urinary Tract Infections In Paralyzed Dogs.
Dogs with problems in their lower spine lose the tone in their bladder and suffer from leakage and constant dripping. These dogs are even more prone to urine scald and urinary tract infections. Regular manual emptying of the bladder is extremely beneficial for these dogs. It keeps leakage to a minimum and prevents the bladder from filling and overflowing.
What Is Urine Scald
Urine is an acidic substance that can burn and irritate sensitive skin if it’s allowed to remain in contact with the skin for a long period of time. It happens when urine hits the skin on their lower belly because of an overflowing bladder or constant dribbling. Urine scald is painful and causes a rash to develop. When you think about urine scald, picture a human infant with a bad case of diaper rash. We all know that is no fun at all.
In addition if a dog with a leaky bladder is allowed to stay outdoors and lie in their own urine, the odor can start to attract flies in as little as one hour. Because a paralyzed dog won’t be able to shoo them away or clean their soiled skin, the flies are more prone to land on the area and lay eggs producing a tissue eating condition called myiasis. This causes even more pain and suffering for a dog.
Treating Urine Scald
The number one way to treat urine scald in paralyzed dogs is through cleanliness. It’s important to keep the skin clean and dry at all times. Rinse the burned skin with warm, clean water and pat it dry with a soft towel. It’s wise to have soft towels and baby wipes on hand at all times for cleanups. Your dog should also be examined by a veterinarian to see if further treatment is needed.
Urine scald is often treated with a topical anti-inflammatory salve that also contains an antibiotic. These salves are prescribed by your veterinarian. There are also over-the-counter medications your vet might for wound and skin care. Some popular brands are Vetericyn Wound & Skin Care, Soothe & Cool Perineal No-Rinse Wash and American Kennel Club Tea Tree Soothing Spray. Be sure to check with your veterinarian before starting any over-the-counter medications.
DO NOT use baby diaper rash ointments! Many are made with zinc-oxide which is toxic if a dog licks it.
Dogs with urine scald also need frequent baths with a mild dog shampoo or a dry shampoo found at pet supply stores. If dry skin becomes a problem because of the frequent baths use a moisturizing rinse that can be obtained from a veterinarian to keep the skin soft.
Diapers made for dogs along with bloomers for females and no-leak wraps for male dogs will also keep a dog dry by pulling moisture away from the skin. Diapers must be changed every 3-4 hours.
Use waterproof bedding or add pee pads to a dog’s bed. Both absorb wetness during the night so a dog won’t be lying in urine.
Preventing Urine Scald
The best way to prevent urine scald from coming back is to learn how to manually express a dog’s bladder. It puts you in charge of knowing when your dog’s bladder is full rather than waiting for nature to do the work. You can learn this at your veterinarian’s office or even by watching a YouTube. There are lots of methods people use to express the bladder and the techniques differ slightly for male and female dogs so take time to work with your dog until you discover the best method.
Here are two videos I like:
Once you have chosen the best bladder expression method for your pet be sure to establish a strict bathroom schedule that you follow every single day. Your dog’s bladder should be emptied 3 -4 times a day. It will minimize the bladder from getting too full and stretching, overflowing or leaking.
In addition learn the signs of a Urinary Tract Infection in your dog. The more you know about your dog’s body the easier it will be to notice a change in urine color, the odor and if your dog is urinating more often. I could tell that Sophie was coming down with a UTI when her bladder became easier to empty. It was sign that she was making way too much urine.
Here are tips from other pet owners about how they Keep An Incontinent Dog Dry and Keep Away Urine Scald.