Blue is good-natured and friendly to everyone. He loves the company of humans, spending as much time as possible in the home with his family. He’s the perfect pet for children.
A few weeks ago, the first sign that there was something wrong with him was when he stopped being as sociable as normal. He stayed in the kitchen, curled up in his bed, with his back to the room. This was most unlike his normal self, and the two girls asked their Mum if something was wrong with him. At the time, there was nothing obvious going on, but the following morning, he was limping, and he was licking his left fore foot, so they decided to bring him to see me.
When I examined his foot, I could see that there was a red, swollen area between two of his toes. Even at that first visit, I suspected that this might be caused by a grass seed: it’s common for these to work their way into the underside of dogs’ feet in summertime. Sometimes, the offending grass seed has already popped out by the time the dog reaches the vet, leaving bacterial infection behind causing redness and soreness.
In the hope that this might be the case, I put Blue onto a course of antibiotics, and asked Lauren and Amelia to bathe his foot in warm salty water twice a day. If there was just infection left in his foot, this would cure it. If , on the other hand, there was a grass seed still in his foot, this would encourage the seed to work its way out.
They did as I suggested, and initially, Blue improved: he was in better form, wanting to play like normal. But three days later, he started to get worse again, so they brought him back to see me.
This time, the appearance of his foot had changed. A tiny hole had appeared between his two toes, and I could see the tip of something yellow poking out of it. This was exactly what I thought might happen. I used forceps to grasp the yellow object, and I tugged. To my delight, I pulled out a grass seed. As far as the girls were concerned, it was like a rabbit being plucked out of a hat by a magician: they were amazed. Even Blue seemed to realise that something good had happened: he began to wag his tail.
Grass seeds have a sharp fibrous tip, and when a dog stands on one, this often digs into the soft skin between their toes on the underside of their feet. Grass seeds also have a rough outer shell, with sharp barbs. So once they have punctured the skin, the barbs cause the seed to move forwards rather than backwards, burying themselves deep inside the dog’s foot. Grass seeds carry bacteria with them, setting up a nasty infection. It’s painful and itchy, and it’s no wonder that dogs are unhappy when this happens.
The only permanent cure is to find and remove the offending grass seed, but this can be more difficult than you’d think. Sometimes it’s possible to cut open the foot and search for the grass seed, but it isn’t always easy to find them. Occasionally an MRI scan needs to be done to pinpoint the precise location of the seed so that it can be removed.
The best (and cheapest) outcome happens when the grass seed works its own way to the surface. This is exactly what had happened in Blue’s case.
Once the grass seed had been removed from his foot, there was no need for any further action. The small hole left by the grass seed soon healed over, and Blue made a full recovery.
The girls just have one remaining worry about their pet: should Blue start to wear shoes or boots when he goes for walks in the countryside?