Ally lives with Anita in Shankill, but in fine weather during the summer, they head off together on trips to the countryside. One week, they visited Carne Beach near Rosslare, where they’ve often been before. Ally loves charging up and down the beach, sniffing piles of seaweed and enjoying the fresh air and space.

After the beach visit, they returned to the holiday home, which is on an acre of undeveloped land. Ally enjoys strolling in this small area of wilderness, finding her own corner to rest amongst overgrown nettles, brambles and undergrowth. Ally was completely normal when she went into the garden but when she came back into the house in the late afternoon, it was obvious that there was something wrong. Anita noticed that she had a couple of pinpricks on the bridge of her nose. It looked as if she’d poked her head into a thorny bush. It was only a minor problem, so Anita didn’t worry too much.

By the following morning, things were much worse. Ally’s nose was now swollen, reddened and oozing, with several more small puncture marks. Ally was still bright and cheerful, behaving normally, but it was obviously beginning to bother her: she was rubbing her nose along the ground, and trying to paw at it.

By the time Anita was able to bring her to the vet, Ally’s nose was even more badly affected. There was now a thickened, scabby area covering most of the bridge of her nose, and Ally was now dull and depressed. She continued to try to rub at it, which was only making it even more sore.

She wouldn’t let me examine her closely, so I had to give her a deep sedative. I then used warm water and antiseptic to clean the sore area. I could see that there were multiple puncture marks, with deep seated infection in the surrounding skin.

It’s impossible to be sure what’s happened in cases like this. Could she have met a hedgehog in the garden that afternoon? Dogs like Ally tend to get very excited by hedgehogs, investigating them by poking them with their nose, but backing off rapidly because of the discomfort caused by those prickly spines. The physical wounds caused by the spines may not seem severe at first, but if they become infected, the result can be tricky to deal with.

Or could she have poked her nose into some irritant plant material, either on the beach or in the undergrowth? Many common plants, like Giant Hogweed, can cause severe skin irritation, and other prickly plants can cause small puncture wounds. Again, minor wounds can be severely aggravated because of the bacterial infection that can move in.

After I’d cleaned up her wounds, I gave Ally pain relief and a potent course of antibiotics. I suggested that Anita should try to clean the sore area twice a day, with mildly salty water. One teaspoonful in a pint of boiled water has the same saltiness as body fluids such as blood, and as such, it’s the most benign cleaning agent for any wound, and it doesn’t sting.

Ally’s nose was still sore two days later, and we’re now reviewing other possible causes: normally, infected wounds rapidly improve with the treatment that she’s been given. There are other causes to consider, such as auto-immune diseases that need a different treatment approach. A biopsy has been taken and we’re awaiting a final diagnosis. That beach walk and garden stroll may have been innocent, harmless activities, after all.

Update: The biopsy showed that the skin reaction was an inflammatory reaction, probably started by an insect bite. A course of anti-inflammatory medication was given and the nose cleared up.

TIPS

  • Over-curious dogs often suffer injuries to their face and nose
  • If nobody sees what’s happened, it can be difficult to work out the precise cause
  • If such injuries don’t respond rapidly, a biopsy may be needed to rule out other causes of a skin rash