A couple of weeks ago, Sunny’s left forefoot swelled up to twice its normal size, and he stopped putting weight on it. Katrin brought him down to see me at once.
When I examined him, I could see a large swelling, like a plump grape, on the underside of one of his toes. Dogs are prone to standing on sharp objects, and although their feet are tough, they sometimes end up with small cuts that get infected. On other occasions, sharp items like pieces of glass, thorns or grass awns can penetrate the underside of the feet: this can also set up nasty infections. The end result is the same: an infected foot that swells up and becomes painful.
The main challenge for a vet is to try to work out if there is still an object lodged inside the sore foot. Sometimes this is obvious: I have seen dogs with the tip of a thorn or the end of a piece of grass protruding from the swollen area. In these cases, it’s just a case of pulling the object out. In other situations, it’s hard to know if there’s still something stuck in there and that was how it was with Sunny. He just had a swollen, infected foot, and the reason was not clear.
I gave him a sedative injection, and when he had become sleepy and relaxed, I examined his foot carefully. I used the sharp tip of a scalpel blade to lance into the swollen area, half expecting a grass seed or some other object to pop out as I made a small incision. As it happened, there was no such dramatic result: just a seepage of blood-stained, infected fluid from the small wound that I had created. Sunny must have stood on something contaminated, like a rusty nail. His foot had become badly infected, but there was nothing stuck in it.
I prescribed a course of antibiotics, combined with careful wound cleaning at home. I asked Katrin to rest Sunny, and to bathe his sore foot twice daily, using salty water. The standard concentration is one teaspoonful of salt in one pint of boiled water. This is salty enough to kill bacteria and clean away grime, without being so salty that it stings. I also gave Sunny strong pain relief: it’s hard to know how sore this type of ailment is, but it’s best to work on the principle that if it looks painful, it probably is.
Sunny’s swollen foot shrank down to its normal size within two days, and he began to put weight on it again. Katrin continued to bathe it regularly, and I checked him again ten days later.
At this stage, Sunny was walking normally around the house, but he was still limping on the gravel driveway outside. When I examined his foot, I could see why: the infected foot had not fully healed. There was a deep crevice on the underside of the damaged area, and this was harbouring an accumulation of grime. I showed Katrin how to clean it even more effectively, using a cotton bud to remove all traces of infection. I’ve also suggested that Sunny is kept off the gravel drive: the small stones obviously press into the sore area, which is not helping healing.
Sunny is a family dog. The children are all looking forward to Sunny being fully back to normal health. They’ve all been missing their usual long walks in the park.
- Dogs are prone to standing on sharp objects
- Infected, painful feet are common
- As long as there is nothing lodged inside the foot, most dogs get better quickly