By Darlene Stott
Published: 07/12/2017, edited: 09/14/2021
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Gangrene is described as what happens when a part of the body loses its blood supply. It can result due to an injury, an infection, or an illness. With wet gangrene, the area involved may become blue or black (skin), or red or bronze (under the skin) and emit a foul-smelling discharge. Dry gangrene involves the affected area drying up, shrinking, and turning black. The limbs and extremities are most often affected, but the condition can occur in the organs as well. It is dangerous, and even potentially fatal. Gangrene must be attended to immediately to avoid spreading.
Can dogs get gangrene?
While there have been documented cases of gangrene in dogs, the condition is extremely rare. Described as typically "acutely toxic", the species clostridia is often responsible, specifically Clostridium perfringens as the cause. In an atypical case, documented as necrotic myositis, a German Shepherd contracted the condition in a hind limb. Bacteria entered the skin when an injection was being administered. The dog had to be hospitalized for four weeks with intensive medical therapy and surgical intervention.
When the German Shepherd was admitted to the hospital, there was evidence of limping and severe swelling in the limb. The area affected was sore and palpitation caused pain. The area was shaved to reveal discolored skin. The dog was panting, had a fever, and was in a weakened state.
Does my dog have gangrene?
The hardest part of diagnosing gangrene in dogs is that the problem can exist under the skin and fur where it can be very hard to see until the infection has advanced significantly.
The symptoms of gangrene in dogs are very similar to those in humans and include:
Swelling of the area
Sickly sweet-smelling discharge ni some cases
Discoloration of the area
Loss of feeling in the region affected
Loss of appetite
The best way to determine if your dog has gangrene is to take them to the vet for a complete checkup. The veterinarian will perform a physical examination of the site. They will run blood tests to see if your dog’s white blood cell count is high, and culture the tissue to look for a bacterial infection. They can also examine a sample of the tissue to see if any evidence of cell death exists.
How is gangrene similar in dogs and humans?
Although a very rare occurrence, canine gangrene is similar to the condition found in humans. Among the common shared symptoms are:
Swelling of the area caused by infection
Foul-smelling discharge caused by dying tissues
Loss of feeling in the area caused by dying nerves and tissues
Skin and tissues that are turning black
Blood and pus draining from the wound site
What to do if you suspect your dog has gangrene:
The severity of a condition like gangrene only highlights the importance of taking your dog to the veterinarian when they are ill, limping, or in obvious pain. The rarity of gangrene does not rule it out as an impossibility. The severity of it, and the high chance of fatality stresses the necessity of having a suspicion checked out even more.
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