Saturday, December 6, 2014

Foreign Bodies and Feet. When to Intervene.

We get a bunch of phone calls and appointments for limping dogs. Lameness is one of those things that can have a million causes and an equal number of options to fix it. Lameness also comes in many degrees of severity.

As a general rule of thumb there is no rule of thumb for these. A slow progressive lameness can be a bone tumor, a knee injury, or even a tick borne disease. An acute complete lameness could be a fractured bone, blister, or broken toenail. Or, maybe all of these but the other way around.

This is Bridger. He is an athletic German Shorthaired Pointer. I was lucky enough during his exam to have a mom who knew exactly when, and thought she knew how, his lameness occurred; He was running in the woods, she heard him yelp! and then he was limping. That was about 4 days ago.

Over the last four days his foot had become swollen and painful. His family thought the cause was a splinter so they lanced it and bandaged it. But, four days later, and still the foot wasn't getting better.

Here are a few important points to remember when dealing with a wound;
  1. Listen to your client. Always give them the benefit of the doubt and then..
  2. Pay attention to your patient. Your job is to do not (further) harm and to get them some relief.
  3. Have a short term AND long term plan. Discuss all treatment options initially. For me, I usually take a somewhat conservative approach initially. Surgery might be on the menu but for this guy it was not option A. He was acting normally (outside of a wound). As long as I trust my clients ability to follow through with the conservative plan we try, talk, and prepare for Plans B-Z. There ARE ALWAYS options! Bridger's initial consult cost about $100. 

Here are some tips for those of you managing a wound at home;

1. Few  things in life beat the broad spectrum antibiotic powers of plain old soap and water. It cleans (and kills) almost everything. And it is safe. At the first sign of a wound supply copious amounts of soapy water.

2. Bandages.. I have a few good things to say about bandages. BUT, I also have a few bad things to say about them. They close in the bad stuff, like infection and close out the most important stuff, like your ability to see and smell the death, disease, and dirt that lies beneath. The only exception to this is to use a bandage as a way to supply compression to a wound as you drive your pet to the vet. 

And should you choose to not heed my warning, I can state without doubt that bandages placed by good intentioned pet parents cause more problems than they solve.

3. Smell.. a bad smell is infection. Go to the vet.

4. A limping foot is pain.. Go to the vet. They will usually prescribe an NSAID.

5. Red skin happens before purulent (puss) happens.. Go to the vet at red skin and/or puss.

6. What appears to be a small surface wound can be a tiny portal to a huge festering deep wound. Deep wounds may need surgical intervention and exploration. In some cases a drain needs to be placed to assist in flushing out the infection. 

After a day of soaking the foot and antibiotics Bridger's family woke up to this!

When an infection lets loose it can look like an explosion. After recovering from the shock of a blood bathed room they looked at Bridger's foot and saw the culprit. Which was easily removed. A large splinter had been the source of the infection, pain and inflammation. (Thanks to them for sending me photos!)

What did they need to do after the splinter eruption?

Keep soaking the foot every 12 hours for another 2 days. Finish the antibiotic (always finish your antibiotics!), and keep the wound clean and dry. If Bridger goes out on a wet muddy day he needs a bootie. I wouldn't expect that he will need the NSAID any longer. Once the foreign body is out they aren't painful. In fact, if they are I would suspect something else is still going on, so go back to the vet. 

Here's another tip on pain medications. Listen to your pet. Use the pain medication IF you think your pet benefits from it. Do not just keep administering it without asking yourself if the pet needs AND benefits from it. All drugs have potential adverse side effects, these are best avoided by only using when needed and as prescribed. 

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To find me you can got to Twitter @FreePetAdvice, or find me in person at Jarrettsville Veterinary Center in Jarrettsville, Maryland.


  1. This is almost exactly the same location Cookie had her quill at. That one eluded two vets for quite some time because it was completely undetectable. The footsie kept bouncing back and forth from clearing up and swelling. Eventually, when and exploratory surgery was being planned, the vet managed to squeeze it out of there. Poor Cookie.

    1. That girl! I'm glad that she has you to help her through all of her trials, and adventures!
      Stay warm,, and have fun in the snow!