At-Home First Aid for a Dog Paw Injury

 |  Jan 21st 2011  |   3 Contributions


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One drawback of urban dog culture is the seemingly ubiquitous presence of broken glass on the street. It's especially hazardous for a large dog to step on a glass shard, because his body weight pushes the cruelly sharp edge deeper into the skin, like a thumb tack. A small dog making paw contact with a piece of glass leads to an injury that's similar to a paper cut; for a large dog, it's more like a puncture wound. And because the paw-pads are so vascular (i.e. they have no shortage of veins), the resulting injury is a real bleeder.

Somehow, several green Heineken bottles got smashed to bits on my block, then dispersed all over the sidewalk near the corner, a difficult intersection to avoid. I did my best to steer my dogs away from this hazard, but one morning this week, immediately after traversing the glassy knoll, I noticed Rudy, my most recent rescue, lifting up his paw and looking pained. On that day, there was no ice-melting salt scattered on the streets, so I immediately suspected glass.

A quick paw-check revealed that was exactly the case: Rudy's paw-pad was already bleeding profusely, and he was already licking at it vigorously.

I got him inside and applied Betadine (povidone iodine) to the injury. I find Hydrogen Peroxide to be quite irritating to the skin, but Betadine doesn't sting, so I use the dark-brown stuff straight out of the bottle, undiluted, for everything from scrapes to cuts on myself and my pets. (But that's me; the bottle suggests diluting it with water first - your call.)

Then, to help speed healing, I applied some Buck Mountain Wound Balm, the same excellent ointment I used on my dog Tiki when he was fighting cancer. This stuff packs the triple healing punch of burdock, yarrow, and echinacea, and is a first-rateitem to keep in the K9 first aid kit. Without some kind of ointment to keep the tissue soft, a wound takes longer to heal - and with the location of this wound, recovery speed really counts.

Now, what about the next dog-walk? I didn't want the filth of the street to enter my dog's wound and cause irritation or an infection. I had to protect Rudy's paw, but a bandage wouldn't be enough; besides he'd only tear it off. So I acquired an accessory I never thought I'd use: PawZ disposable boots.

I'd always thought the sight of dogs wearing these brightly-colored rubber galoshes was vaguely ridiculous. If you're going to shoe your dog, I figured, use serious booties with a treaded sole. Now, I get it. PawZ boots are not a frivolous fashion statement, they're a first-aid tool. And they enabled us to get through this paw injury without a visit to the vet.

They're not as silly as they look, and they're fairly easy to put on - once you get the hang of stretching them wide open with both hands while holding your dog's paw, then guiding the foot through the opening without letting the dog's nails get caught.

And when it snowed again a couple of days later, Rudy stepped boldly into 5-inch-deep drifts with his injured foot, yet the PawZ boot stayed on and the moisture stayed out. And you know something? Rudy doesn't look at all ridiculous wearing it; he looks like a big red dog someone loves enough to outfit with a bright blue boot (blue is size Medium, which fits Dobermans, Dalmatians, Greyhounds, and rescued pitbulls). What a huge improvement over the old days. Remember, Dogsters, when we used to wrap a dog's injured foot with a plastic bag and packing tape, reinforcing the bottom with duct tape so it wouldn't tear open?

Just one caveat: I noticed, on that first outing, that the tight fit acted as a kind of anti-tourniquet, causing the wound to spill more blood. It's not a good idea to keep the PawZ boot on any longer than necessary - i.e. don't keep it on while the dog is inside; let the wound breathe for fastest healing. Even if Spot isn't injured, his paws need to breathe; PawZ boots trap moisture and heat, which isn't a healthy environment for a dog's feet.

PawZ are disposable but they're also reusable; I like to reuse and recycle as much as possible, so I keep several PawZ in play, wiping and/or washing each oneoff after a walk (CleanWell natural sanitizing soap, spray, or wipes are great for this) then leaving it out to dry for the next outing.

Meanwhile, after each walk, I reapplied more Wound Balm. I finally got Rudy to stop licking his paw on my watch, so he didn't need to wear a post-surgical collar. For safety's sake, I sprinkled one capsule of Olive Leaf Extract over Rudy's meals, the same supplement I take when I need to prevent infection; it's nature's antibiotic, and it smells and tastes delicious, exactly like olive oil.

Now, a few days after stepping on that evil piece of glass, Rudy's wound has stopped bleeding and is well on its way to healing up.

Do you have a success story of at-home first aid care for your dog? Please share it in the comments!

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