This article was updated on May 16th, 2023
While not especially common, some dogs will wear diapers on a day to day basis. Others wear them at specific times, such as a female who goes into season. The first thing I tell any of my clients who plan on using diapers is: “Watch out for diaper rash!”.
Diaper rash in dogs is also called urine scald. It occurs when their acidic urine is in contact with their skin for too long, causing to become inflamed and sore. Secondary infections are not uncommon. For the dog, the ongoing discomfort can be quite miserable.
What diaper rash is in dogs
Diaper rash is a condition that can occur in dogs who wear diapers on an ongoing basis, particularly if they are left on for prolonged periods without being changed, or if the dog is constantly dribbling urine.
This sort of dermatitis can occur whether the dog has short or long fur. With short fur, there is little barrier to protect the skin against the urine on the nappy. With long fur, the urine soaks into the fur, which is then in contact with the skin.
This is a form of moist dermatitis that is characterized by red and sore skin that is inflamed and can look ‘burned’. Over time, dogs tend to lose their fur in this area. The most commonly affected areas are the perianal region, the genitals and the back legs.
Is my dog in pain? Is it serious?
There is no doubt that diaper rash is very uncomfortable and will cause dogs some pain and distress. Their skin will feel raw and sore and it will be uncomfortable when the diaper rubs against their skin, as well as when they sit down.
This condition is serious, in so much as, it needs prompt treatment and can quickly worsen. There is also a real risk for secondary bacterial infections, which can be hard to treat once established.
What are the causes of diaper rash in dogs?
The reason diaper rash occurs, is because the skin is in contact with caustic urine and there is excess humidity and moisture and poor ventilation. There are some co-factors that can make diaper rash more likely, or more severe. These include:
Some dogs will be sensitive or allergic to the material that the diaper is made from. This can make their skin inflamed and open to infection, even without urine scald being present. Dogs who have atopic disease and allergies are more prone to skin disease in general, as they tend to have a weaker skin barrier.
Many dogs suffer with ongoing allergies, and they often need to be managed with long term anti itch medicine, to minimise reactions. Owners can use supplements such as omega 3 fatty acids and probiotics to help make their dogs skin more robust, and less prone to urine scald or diaper rash. Learn more about skin allergy issues in dogs.
2. Bacterial or yeast infections.
The moist and humid environment, covered by a diaper, creates a breeding ground for infections. Signs of infection can include skin that is oozing or crusting and a foul smell. The infection will tend to start under the area where the diaper sits on the dog, but can spread further than this, affecting other parts of the body including the tail, legs, belly and rump. At the first sign of infection, an urgent vet visit is needed, as these infections can be hard to manage, particularly when not treated promptly. View more pictures of yeast skin infections in dogs.
3. Contact irritation.
As the diaper rubs against the skin, particularly when the fur becomes thinner, this can lead to inflammation, red skin and minor skin breaks. The more this happens, the more open to infection the skin becomes.
Owners can help prevent this by ensuring the diaper is a good fit and determining which diaper best suits their dog; some do best with fabric, washable diapers.
Home remedies for diaper rash in dogs
Generally, once diaper rash has become established, veterinary care and prescription medicine will be needed. It is important owners do not spend time trialling at home treatments, as this can give the rash time to spread and worsen.
There are things that we can do from home, in conjunction with seeking veterinary care.
1. Diaper free time.
It can be very hard to treat diaper rash effectively if we are keeping the diaper on the dog all the time. The more time without the diaper, the better for the skin as it heals. Of course, this also means that owners need to be on the ball with cleaning and drying the skin after every urination.
2. Preventing further skin damage.
If your dog tries to lick or chew at their inflamed skin when the diaper is off, a buster collar should be used. It may also help to keep your dog’s mind off the itchiness, by keeping them occupied with things like scenic walks, scent trails, food puzzles and chews.
3. Excellent hygiene
A gentle antiseptic wash such as dilute Chlorhexidine can be used to wash the skin daily, making sure we thoroughly dry the skin after. The aim is to remove as much urine as we can.
Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.
Silver sulfadiazine is a nice example of an ointment that can be applied after washing and drying the skin, which helps prevent infections.
Steer clear of baby nappy rash cream, such as Sudocrem, as they often contain Zinc Oxide. When ingested in large amounts, this can be very toxic to dogs.
5. Considering nappy alternatives
As mentioned, we ideally do not want our dog in a nappy at all times. When incontinent and the incontinence is not treatable, this poses a real challenge. For some dogs who sleep well, having them sleep on an incontinence pad can allow for a ‘diaperless’ night.
What are tips for preventing diaper rash in dogs?
While convenient in many ways, and sometimes needed to maintain hygiene in the house, it is not natural for a dog to wear a diaper. Their skin is not designed to be in contact with urine so frequently. So, the less the dog wears the diaper the better.
In some cases, a dog’s urinary incontinence may be treatable. This is the case, for example, with some hormonal conditions as well as in dogs with chronic UTIs and bladder stones. If we can stop the incontinence, diapers should no longer be needed.
When diapers are used, they should be good quality, breathable pet diapers that are regularly changed.
Keep fur trimmed short and bathe the skin daily, drying it well after. Pet safe barrier creams can also be helpful.
When to seek veterinary care for persistent diaper rash
Diaper rash is something we should have a vet take a look at, so they can determine the extent of the lesion and whether or not the dog would benefit from intervention.
The vet will examine your dog and their skin, checking for signs of urine scald and infection. They may also analyse the urine for a UTI, which can go hand in hand with diaper rash.
Antibiotics are frequently issued, to help treat any UTI or secondary skin infection.
Anti inflammatories and pain relief will sometimes also be prescribed, particularly if your dog is in a lot of discomfort or if their skin is very inflamed.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can diaper rash be contagious to other pets or humans?
The dermatitis caused by diaper rash is not contagious. However, diaper rash can co-exist with bacterial and fungal infections. These infections are potentially contagious, but only if the other pet or human has broken skin which touches against the infected area. So risks of infection spread are minimal.
How long does it typically take for diaper rash to clear up in dogs?
Some milder cases can heal within one to two weeks. However, for some dogs, the issue can grumble along and flare up from time to time. When there is persistent urine scald in the area and diapers continue to be used, the rash may not ever fully resolve.
Can a dog with chronic diaper rash still live a happy, healthy life?
As diaper rash causes pain, it is not something we want our dogs to be living with. It reduces their quality of life, so we definitely want to get it treated ASAP.
Disclaimer: This website's content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian for healthcare decisions. Read More.