Skin Integrity and Spinal Cord Injuries
Skin is our largest organ and its the same for dogs. One major concern with spinal cord injuries is skin integrity. Studies show that for humans with spinal cord injuries the incidence of developing pressure ulcers can be from 25-66% (1,2). Pressure ulcers are a dangerous complication of spinal cord injuries. Due to the lack of protective sensation, decreased ability to relieve pressure by moving or shifting weight and the atrophying/reduction of muscle mass, these horrible sores can form unbenownst to the individual.
For Noodle we are watching her mobility habits and monitoring her skin closely. When out of her scooter she "drags" her back legs behind her. She tends to move with her legs in a position we call "right windswept" meaning she keeps her back legs "swept" to the right. This increases the pressure and friction on her left outside paw and right inside paw. We are using protective creams and booties to her feet, vary her time between "dragging" vs using her scooter and try to provide padded surfaces for her to roam around the house. Another method we are using to vary her pressure is called a drag bag from a company called Walkin Pets. Here is the link: https://www.handicappedpets.com/walkin-drag-bag
One unique problem we have found that varies from humans is that Noodle doesn't understand that her back legs are hers. Combine that with being a puppy and wanting to chew... constantly chew. So yep you guessed it, she likes to chew her back legs. From what we can assess she does not have sensation for light touch or pain in her hindquarters. We have to keep her from chewing her back legs which could easily lead to a wound.
Other important methods of pressure ulcer prevention for humans that we will utilize for Noodle are:
- Good nutrition including hydration
- Joint range of motion
- Frequent skin checks
- Regular exercise to maintain healthy joints and cardiovascular system
- Skin hygiene
Like any dog, Noodle comes with her unique challenges. With love, good care and frequent observations of her habits and routine we hope to keep her healthy and happy for a long time.
This is a good representation of Noodle's preferred posture demonstrating her right windswept back legs.
1. Fuhrer MJ, Garber SL, Rintala DH, Clearman R, Hart KA. Pressure ulcers in community-resident persons with spinal cord injury: prevalence and risk factors. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 1993;74(11):1172–7
2. Regan MA, Teasell RW, Wolfe DL, Keast D, Mortenson WB, Aubut JA. A systematic review of therapeutic interventions for pressure ulcers after spinal cord injury. Arch Phys Med Rehabil2009;90(2):213–31