The worst case of urine scald in a paralyzed dog I’ve seen came from a photo sent to me by a pet owner. The skin on the poor dog’s lower belly was red, blistered and looked like it had a bad sunburn. It happened because urine was allowed to stay on the dog’s skin too long.
Urine scald is a common secondary condition many paraplegic dogs develop because of their incontinence. It’s a frustrating and painful problem that causes an injury to the skin comparable to a severe diaper rash in an infant.
But like diaper rash, urine scald can be successfully treated with preventive measures and good hygiene. Here’s what needs to be done.
Be sure to talk with your dog’s veterinarian before starting any of these treatments.
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Why urine burns the skin
The urine in your dog’s body is a made-up of chemicals that are designed to remove liquid waste and impurities. When this substance comes in contact with the delicate skin around a dog’s genitals, the normal bacteria that live on the skin transforms the urine into ammonia.
When ammonia-soaked skin isn’t properly cleaned or if it’s allowed to remain on a dog’s body for a long period of time, it causes irritation and burns.
Paralyzed dogs are prone to the problem as a direct result of the location of their spinal cord injury.
For example, if they had a herniated disc in the middle of their spine or higher, they can develop a condition called excessive bladder tone. These dogs can’t empty their bladder on their own and must be manually expressed 3-5 times a day.
If this doesn’t happen, their bladder eventually becomes too full and overflows onto the skin.
On the other hand, dogs who have injuries or diseases that affect the lower half of their spine are apt to lose tone in their bladder. This causes them to constantly drip and leak urine onto sensitive skin. If the dripping isn’t immediately cleaned, scalding can occur.
How to treat urine scald
The best way urine scald in a paralyzed dog is treated is through prevention. That means practicing good hygiene at all times, to keep the skin clean and dry.
One technique is to rinse irritated skin with warm, clean water and pat it dry with a soft fluffy towel. It’s also a good idea to keep baby wipes on hand for quick cleanups.
If your dog develops a rash on their belly or genitals, the problem can be treated by using prescription salves and over-the-counter barrier creams.
Veterinarians often prescribe an anti-inflammatory, antibiotic ointment that soothes the scalded skin and prevents it from becoming an infection.
There’s also a variety of topical barrier creams pet parents can purchase.
Some of the popular brands are:
- Vetericyn Wound & Skin Care
- Soothe & Cool Perineal No-Rinse Wash
- Tea Tree Soothing Spray
Be sure to check with your vet before starting any over-the-counter medication.
One rule to keep in mind is DO NOT use baby diaper rash ointments. Many contain zinc-oxide which is toxic if your dog licks it.
More ways to treat the problem
Dogs with urine scald benefit from gentle and frequent baths to calm their irritated skin. Be sure to use a mild dog shampoo or dry dog shampoo for this treatment.
You can also add a moisturizing rinse to keep the skin soft. These are best purchased through your dog’s vet.
Dog diapers or belly bands, for male dogs, are another option because they pull moisture away from the skin. The trick is to change them often, every 3-4 hours, so they don’t become saturated with urine.
And at night, use of a dog bed with a waterproof cover, waterproof sheet or pee pads will keep your dog dry. There are even raised dog beds that allow urine to drip through a mesh mattress to protect a dog’s delicate skin.
Click here to read: Three Key Elements to Stop Urinary Tract Infections in Paralyzed Dogs
The number one best prevention tool
If you read this blog often, you probably think I sound like a broken record, but the best way to prevent urine scald is by manually expressing your dog’s bladder. The technique puts you in charge rather than leaving it up to mother nature.
So, if you don’t already express your dog, ask your vet for a hands-on lesson. It takes a little practice, but most pet owners go from novice to expert in no-time.
Here’s a video to help you get started.
If you have a good technique to prevent and treat urine scald, please let me know in the comments. I’m always happy to update information.
My Pomeranian dribbles and marks his territory. He wears a binder with a woman’s Poise pad attached. Can I use Desitin cream to stop urine scald and to heal skin burn?
Hi Esther, If you want to use a human diaper rash cream for your dog’s diaper rash make sure it doesn’t contain zinc oxide which can be harmful. Desitin Cream contains this ingredient. Another cream to look at is A & D Ointment.
Here’s a link to a story we have on the website with tips from pet owners: https://dogwheelchairlife.com/favorite-tips-to-treat-dog-urinary-tract-infections-and-urine-scald/
It has lots of great ideas to stop and prevent diaper burn and urine scald in dogs.
Hi ?. I use a calendula/Marigold ointment for our paralized dog to prevent urine scald. I make it myself and it works great for our girl ?
Thank you for the tip. I understand that Marigold is used for healing wounds. I like that you’ve found a natural way to protect your dog’s skin.
This was helpful to read. My corgi is 3 years paraplegic from disc hemorrhage. He currently has a rash that I believe is urine scald. It’s so hard to keep any creams on him because he is ALWAYS on the carpet dragging himself around. He wears a belly band with a diaper insert 24/7. He drips a bit and sometimes fully releases into the diaper but there is no rhyme or reason for it. He gets a diaper change 3x a day but maybe I need to up that. This wasn’t ever an issue before until he got a UTI. Not sure if the bacteria in his urine effected the skin more than normal? More concentrated? It’s always something new to overcome but I sure love my boy
Dana, You’ve been going through a lot with your Corgi, but I think you’re on the right track. I agree that the bacteria from the UTI could be contributing to the rash. My suggestion would be to get the cream your using for the UTI, on him, and give the area fresh air. During that time, try to confine your dog in a large dog crate, x-pen or even a child’s pack n play – somewhere he can still see you. Line the area with puppy pee pads for easy clean up.
Hopefully the fresh air will help.
Best wishes, Sharon
Hi. I just adopted a two year old dog that has no use of his back legs. He’s a husky mix and weighs about 52 pounds. I haven’t been expressing his bladder because I’m not sure he needs it. He seems to go just fine.
I’ve learned so much just in the few days that I’ve had him. He’s using a wheelchair for short walks and I’m keeping him diapered and with a belly band. I look forward to reading your website because I feel like there’s a lot more I need to know. Adopting him has really been life-changing
Hi Peggy, Thank you for adopting a disabled dog. If your new dog has been wearing diapers or a belly band since he became paralyze and he’s doing well with it, I wouldn’t change things. Depending on the part of the spine that’s injured, he might be able to fully empty his bladder. And as long as you change the belly band pad frequently and don’t let him sit in the urine, he will probably be fine. I wouldn’t change what is working. That said, the majority of incontinent dogs can’t fully empty their bladder and that’s why they get urine scald and urine retention. Just keep an eye on any changes. Please let me know whenever you have any question. I also recommend that you check out our Resource Page and download my e-book about FAQ for dogs with IVDD. Even if your husky has another diagnosis, it’ll take you to posts with lots of information for pet families new to paralysis. – Best, Sharon
My 15 year old corgi has a bad disc! So he still has some sensation. We have his wheels! But because he drags so much, he’s cut up his belly with irritation. Constantly keeping it clean with antiseptic shampoos, antiseptic wipes sprays ointments creams , now have a onesie on, thinking of belly band but nervous he’ll start urinating in it and start that bad pattern which will lead to him making infection worse! I am also a LVT! Any recommendations on how to keep this belly safe?! A bandage in the area with the dragging is just not realistic
Erica, I’m sorry to hear about your dog. I love onesies for protecting a dog’s belly and legs. It should work for your corgi’s belly from the dragging, but it sounds like some of the irritation is from urine. If that’s the case talk with your vet about a medication like Proin which supports the muscles in the urinary tract. It’s a good medicine for dogs who leak. Or you could ask your vet is your pup would benefit from manually expressing his bladder. It’s a great way to protect against leakage and UTIs. Talk to the vet about a hands on lesson, if that’s the right direction to go. – Sharon
HI Esther I thank god for coming across this site my dog Lassie was diagnose with Ivdd since October 2021 so it has not been long this is something new and I would really love to help my dog with this condition but to be honest this is a very sad and stressful situation she constantly get severe UTI’s and is a very costly condition any adviced you can give me will be gladly appreciated.
Hi Sobeyda, UTIs can be a problem, but there are ways you can stay ahead of them. One idea is to buy UTI testing strips. The strips for humans are inexpensive. Then place the strip under your dog when she urinates and see where the color lies on the chart that comes with the strips. If the urine tests between 6.5 and 7.0 it’s good, but other numbers will tell you a UTI is brewing. It allows you to start treatment before the UTI gets out of hand. Another way to keep infections away is to learn how to manually express your dog’s bladder. Many paralyzed dogs can’t empty their bladders fully on their own. And a 3rd suggestion is to be sure your pup gets enough water. All of this is discussed in these stories I have on the website: https://dogwheelchairlife.com/three-key-elements-to-stop-dog-urinary-tract-infections/ and https://dogwheelchairlife.com/favorite-tips-to-treat-dog-urinary-tract-infections-and-urine-scald/
It sounds like you’re doing a good job with your girl. With a few tweaks, you’ll be an expert before you know it. – Best, Sharon
My frenchie has his rear legs paralyzed due to IVDD. He needs to be expressed and I do it 5-6 times a day. He was getting lots of UTIs so he takes preventive medication every night before going to sleep (nitrofurointoin) and it works very well. When he gets a UTI the vet prescribes him Baytril for 10 days and that solves the problem. I also use testing strips to take action as soon as a UTI is developing. Caring for a paralyzed dog is a challenging journey, but the lesson of infinite and unconditional love that it teaches is an experience of growth for the soul. I deeply admire and respect everyone who cares for a dog with IVDD.
I admire everything you are doing for your dog.