How Pressure Sores are Diagnosed
Pressure sores are not difficult to diagnose. They are not a “disease” or a “medical disorder,” but rather are a physical skin and subcutaneous tissue condition caused by pressure, friction and trauma. They are, basically, a “sore.”
A thorough history and physical examination are the most important tools in diagnosing pressure sores. The diagnosis is usually made based upon clinical observations and upon the owner’s explanation of the environment and surfaces upon which the dog lies. If the pressure sore is ulcerated or infected, the attending veterinarian probably will take samples of the oozing exudate with a sterile cotton swab, and then will submit the samples to a diagnostic laboratory for microscopic examination and culture. Skin biopsies may also be taken for diagnostic examination, depending upon the location and appearance of lesions in the particular patient. Biopsies are important to distinguish pressure sores from potential cancerous masses. In the uncommon case where involvement of bone is suspected, radiographs (X-rays) of the affected area may be recommended.
Pressure sores can be very frustrating to owners of affected dogs. The best way to deal with them is to provide well-padded bedding everywhere that the dog tends to rest, to relieve pressure on its elbows, hocks, hips or other bony pressure points.