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Stages Of Pressure Sores And Wound Healing In Dogs

Stages Of Pressure Sores And Wound Healing In Dogs

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A few months ago I talked about pressure sores and how we are dealing with Leroy’s sore.

In that post I discussed what a pressure sore was so today I thought we would talk about the stages of a pressure sore and the healing process.

According to Web MD there can be 4 stages of a pressure sore:

Stage 1 of Pressure Sores

Sores are not open wounds.

The skin has no break and tears but may be painful.

The skin is red and warm to touch and the sore can feel softer or firmer than the area around it.

Stage 2 of pressure sores

The skin breaks open, wears away, or ulcers form.

This can be tender and painful.

The sore can go deeper into the skin.

It can look like a scrape, blister, or small crater in the skin. In this stage, the sore can look like a blister filled with clear fluid.

Some skin may be damaged beyond repair or die at this stage.

Stage 3 of pressure sores

 At this stage, the sore expands and goes into the tissue beneath the skin and forms a small crater.

Fat may show at this stage but not muscle, tendon, or bone.

Stage 4 of pressure sores

The pressure sore is really deep and into the muscle and bone which causes extensive damage and may cause damage to tendons and joints.

In stages 3 and 4 there may be no pain due to the extensive damage that has been done to the tissue but blood sepsis and bone infections may occur.

As far as I can tell, even though these are pressure sore stages for a human, it is almost the same as the pressure sores that Leroy is dealing with.

I could not find any sources that listed the stages of a pressure sore on a dog.

A few months ago Leroy would be a stage 3.

Right now his left rear pressure sore is a stage 1 and right rear pressure sore is a 1 1/2.

It seemed like an extremely long road to get to that stage but with the help of the Assisi Loop we got there quicker than we probably should have.

Since pressure sores are considered wounds they can undergo various stages of healing.

Here are the 4 stages of wound healing according to The Merck Manual. Pet Health Edition.

Inflammation is the first stage of wound healing.

It can be divided into 2 phases.

First, blood vessels constrict to control bleeding.

Then, within minutes, blood vessels dilate. This causes swelling.

Debridement is the second stage of wound healing.

This is the removal of foreign material from the wound. It happens naturally on a cellular level.

Certain white blood cells attack bacteria and other debris in the wound.

The same term is used for the cleaning process used by doctors and veterinarians.

Repair is the third stage of wound healing.

In a healthy wound, cells begin to grow and rebuild missing and damaged tissues.

Small blood vessels develop to deliver blood supply to the wound.

Skin cells then migrate, and scabs form within hours of the initial wound.

These skin, or epithelial, cells can cover a properly closed surgical incision within 48 hours.

In an open wound, the creation of granulation tissue takes longer.

Maturation is the final stage of wound healing.

During this period, the newly laid collagen fibers reorganize.

This process allows wound strength to increase slowly over a long period (up to 2 years).

Most wounds remain 15% to 20% weaker than the original tissue.

Of course, other factors need to be taken into consideration when dealing with wound healing such as the current health status, such as malnutrition which can slow down the healing process, medications and care.

Pressure wounds can be extremely difficult to treat and are best prevented.

If pressure wounds are mild or caught early, cleaning and bandaging may be enough to prevent further damage.

More severe wounds require surgery.

Here’s Leroy’s right rear pressure sore progression:

 open pressure sore on dog's rear leg

It’s obvious that Leroy’s pressure sore was an open wound and in a crucial stage.

Our goal was to try and stop the pressure sore from progressing and try to get it to heal as fast and safely as possible.

We’ve been treating Leroy’s pressure sores ever since he came home from the hospital in late September.

His left sore were able to be treated by just wrapping with vet wrap and using Triple Antibiotic ointment.

His right sore proved to be a lot more difficult because it’s on the leg that he lays on the most so we enlisted the help of the Assisi Loop back in November and added in a lot of soft surfaces, like a soft dog bed, for Leroy to lay on.


We started using the Loop 4 times a day along with the bandage and Triple Antibiotic.

By the end of December we began to see improvement and with the wet weather, we dropped the bandage because it was too hard to keep it dry.

By January we were using the Loop twice a day and the wound healing really began to speed up which I contribute to the Loop and the fact that Leroy’s overall body was beginning to heal. In about 4 months time we almost have a closed wound.

That’s pretty good since a lot of information suggests that pressure sores that are in the 3 and 4 stages can take months to years to heal.

The setbacks that we had were Leroy licking at the wound, which he reopened once it was almost completely healed over one night, and the fact that he is still on a small dose of steroids which slows down the healing process.

The fact that we were in the dead of winter and the wound is continuously being exposed to a lot of moisture doesn’t help much either.

I think, and I could be wrong, that if we were in the middle of summer we would have a completely closed wound.

Keeping Leroy from licking the pressure sores and making sure that the sores weren’t resting on hard surfaces was important in his healing process. 

I used vet wrap to help cushion the sores but other things that may be helpful for some dogs with pressure sores on the back legs are non-slip dog socks, dog boots, hock braces, and hocks wraps

Another technique that has been successful in treating wounds is low-level laser therapy.

This treatment uses specific wavelengths of light to interact with tissue in order to help accelerate the healing process.

Low-Level Lasers emit photons to stimulate cells to perform specific tasks in the body, such as reducing inflammation and edema, reducing or eliminating pain for a time, and speeding up wound closure.

Laser therapy can be performed by your veterinarian or you can invest in an at-home low-level laser such as the Dog Med Laser

For pressure sores on the elbow, there are elbow pads and elbow sleeves. 

We always recommend checking with your veterinarian to see what is the best course of medical action for your dog. 

Updated 08/2019

ulcer pressue sore on dog's left rear leg

Leroy recently developed ulcers on his right rear leg after a flare-up of his IBD. It’s not as bad as his previous pressure sores but he has 3 ulcers instead of just one.

treating a pressure sore ulcer on a dog with low-laser treatments at home

I’m currently using the Dog Med Laser on level 3 for wound treatment and it’s healing nicely. 

Updated 03/2021- Leroy has since passed away but we had success with both the Assisi Loop and the Dog Med Laser for treating his ulcers. 

They came back periodically over the years, mostly when he was on high doses of steroids to control his IBD, but they never got as bad as they first were. 

Disclosure-I was sent an Assisi Loop from Assisi Animal Health (with a prescription from Leroy’s vet) at no charge in return for my honest review of this product. All opinions expressed in this post are mine and mine only. 

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Nancy Cusumano

Saturday 31st of July 2021

This blog is amazingly helpful in treating my dog's pressure wound. It got to stage 3 without me really being aware of it or how bad that was. I am using a friend's Assissi mat, thankfully! I will be getting her to the vet next week. But I wanted to say thank you for writing this, and for updating it. I am sorry to hear of Leroy's passing.

Diane Spence

Friday 30th of August 2019

Hi...i just had to put my 10 yr old girl down. Took her to two animal hospitals and they had no clue what they were treating. I just found this story on preasure sores which look exactly like what my dogs sores looked like. Only problem is she had about twelve sores and the vet treated her with antibiotics for flesh eating bacteria. We could get them to almost go away and they would come back wirh a vengeance. I felt so sorry for her...she was suffering terrible. I miss her so bad. Hope the best for you. She had them for at least 5 months before we gave up. Thanks for this post.


Monday 2nd of September 2019

I'm so very sorry for your loss Diane <3

Jan Campbell

Sunday 19th of March 2017

I have a solution for keeping the elbow padded & not slipping. The padding should be 1 or 2 feminine hygiene maxi pads, depending on the size of the wound. The cover over the pad will be a large soccer sock. The open end is to cover the wound. Cut off the foot portion & what's left should be cut up the middle to use as a wrapping around the stomach to be tied on the back. The open end that fits over the wound should be about 5" or 6" so the other end that is cut up the middle should leave that 5 -6" to cover the pad. The feminine pad is sticky on the outside & will stick to the sock. It takes patience to get it right but once you do it works very well.


Tuesday 11th of August 2015

How long does it take for the dog to reach each stage of the pressure sores?


Tuesday 11th of August 2015

I think that would all depend on the dog and the cause of the pressure sore. Immune mediated, infectious, metabolic, disabled...etc. In Leroy's case he went from 1-3 very fast, probably less than a month.

2 Brown Dawgs

Monday 16th of February 2015

I am glad that you found something to help Leroy.

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