Pressure Sores

Most pets are easy sleepers and are happy to lie down whenever and wherever the urge strikes. When they decide to ease their tired bones, they will sometimes drop down and "hit the bricks," putting tremendous pressure on the skin over bony areas like on the elbows. This can lead to painful, fluid-filled pressure sores called hygromas, says John Brooks, D.V.M., a veterinarian in private practice in Fork, Maryland.

You are most likely to see this type of pressure sore on big dogs like Great Danes or mastiffs because they are usually not very graceful when they lie down; they often just drop the last few inches. Their elbows can hit the ground with as much force as a 10-pound can falling from a countertop, and their skin pays the price.

Even when they don't get pressure sores, large dogs often develop calloused skin in areas where they exert a lot of pressure -- on the elbows or even over the breastbone. "Calluses are so common that they are almost normal in big dogs," says John Fioramonti, D.V.M. a veterinarian in private practice in Towson, Maryland. As long as the calluses don't turn into actual sores (and in most cases, they won't), you don't need to worry about them, he says.

Another type of pressure sore -- one that is a lot more serious -- is a bedsore. Also called decubital ulcers, these sores usually occur in elderly or ill pets who can't move around very much. Because they spend a lot of time in the same position, they lose circulation in parts of the skin, causing the cells to die. Bedsores are usually deep, infected, and painful and can be very hard to cure.

See Your Vet If...

  • Your pet's elbows look sore or swollen
  • He is having trouble moving
  • Your pet is shedding or scratching more than usual
  • He has scales, bald patches, or a rash
  • He has severe dandruff or dry skin
  • His fur is greasy or smelly even after baths
  • Your pet has broken out in hives and is having trouble breathing
  • He has a bad sunburn
  • There has been a significant change in skin color, or the skin seems loose
  • There is a lump or swelling beneath his skin
  • Your pet has a sore on the skin that won't heal
  • The skin of the lips, abdomen, or rectal area is yellow
  • There are red or purple dots or splotches on his skin

Next Steps:

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