Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Thorn Birds

I'm not often wrong, ask anyone who knows me, but sometimes a person has to own up to when they made an incorrect judgement call. I guess you could say it happens so rarely with me that it's noteworthy enough to mention. As we know Leeloo has been lame on and off since the holidays. I can't actually pinpoint when she came up lame, but what I do know is that during the initial onset of lameness I checked her foot, the pads, between her toes, up her leg ... pretty much scoured the area to see what was causing Hop-Along Leeloo. Finding nothing external I assumed it was a twisted toe or two and decided to give it time to heal.

Days off from the daily walk seemed to improve the situation but as soon as we'd go for a run she'd be lame again. I was constantly feeling her toes, flexing them, trying to pinpoint the cause of the problem. Then, this past Saturday, things came to a head, quite literally. She was fussing with her foot enough for me to take a look and there it was, an abscess. Well, the catalyst to an abscess is usually a foreign body.

Now, don't judge, but it was Saturday night at about 9pm, there was a blizzard raging on my doorstep, my dog has an abscess on her pad which is obviously quite painful, and I need to get that pus out. So, I did what any failed Brownie would do, I held a flashlight between my teeth, pinned Leeloo down (handy since she was already on the couch), I got a sharp clean instrument and slit the abscess. Voila! The pus escaped offering Leeloo immediate relief. So, what was causing this issue?

Just about a centimeter away from the abscess was a teeny tiny hole. The hole was invisible on previous inspections probably because the object had snapped off below the line of her skin and then the roughness of the pad hid the entry. The swelling of the abscess caused the entry to the hole to stretch thus making it more visible. I shone the flashlight in there and could almost see the very end of something. I used tweezers to try and extract it but only succeeded in pushing it further in. I decided to leave it for a moment and emailed Nurse Kim for advice. She recommended I soak the foot for 10 minutes twice a day and the foreign body just might start to come out on its own. I wasn't sure why this would work but I thought I'd give it a shot.

For all my surgical inexperience Leeloo had sat extremely still and waited patiently while I'd slit her foot open, squeezed pus out of an abscess, and attempted to extract an object from her toe ... but hold her foot in warm water? Forget it. I had a death grip on her leg while I stared her down over a warm tub of water. We didn't ever make the 10 minute mark but softening up the foot seemed to help the abscess, if nothing else.

After, thankfully, just 3 sessions of foot soaking I thought my eyes were deceiving me, but no, there it was, the very tip of the object was working its way to the surface of her toe. Not wanting her to walk on it and push it back in, I knew now was my chance. The rough pad around the abscess had sloughed off and with another soak, and a little gentle persuasion I managed to remove some more pad, got down to the level of the object and used tweezers to extract, what else, a thorn. It came out very easily, I rubbed some polysporin into the wounds and now her foot is a nice healthy healing pink, her lameness is gone and life is back on track.

Now, do I recommend that you attempt veterinary care of this nature on your own dogs? No. Clearly I am not a person to go running to the vet at every cough, cut or vomit. I go when I think the situation is beyond what I know I can handle - pooping blood means vet.  Lameness on and off means play it by ear. But that's just me.  What I recommend when your dog is lame is to just take it to the vet and find out why. My ad hoc veterinary skills are a bit archaic but hey, I'm kind of old school that way.

Nurse Kim wanted to know if the thorn was all mushy and gross from being in Leeloo's foot for an excess of 2 weeks and the answer is no. The thorn was stubbornly just as hard as the day it embedded itself in that lovely white toe. 

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