When should you make a visit to the vet?

Published 4:47 pm Tuesday, April 16, 2019


K9 Corner

A reader called and said, “My dog is limping badly, can I do anything for him?”

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It was a weekend, and I understood her reluctance to call her veterinarian for no reason. However, when a dog limps badly, it usually means a trip to the doctor.

But there are a few things to look for before jumping into the car. First, check the pads of the feet. I have found small acorns and burrs caught between the pads and sticking into the tender skin of the foot. There are easily removed and the problem is solved.

Second, check the condition of the toenails and dewclaws. One may be split or broken or the nails may have grown so long that they are curling under the foot, making it painful to walk on that foot. Usually split or broken nails will bleed profusely, so a trip to the doctor is needed. If your dog will not let you trim the offending toenails and dewclaws, that condition will also require an office visit.

Third, think back on where your dog has been walking, running or playing. In snow or ice, your pet may have walked on chemically treated walkways or roadways. These chemicals will burn the pads of the dog’s feet, causing the animal to “limp badly.” If you wash your pet’s feet as soon as you return from your walk, that may be all that is needed. Chemically treated lawns in the summer time may have the same effect, although “the jury is still out” deliberating on this.

Finally, have you started a spring exercise program and included your dog on your extended walks or jogs without giving your pet time to toughen its feet? During the winter, house dogs’ feet become very soft and tender because they are walking on carpeting. It will take several weeks of short walks on the pavement or roadway to toughen the pads sufficiently for longer jogs or walks.

Remember that the Iditarod sled dogs, even with all their training and conditioning, still wear boots to protect their feet during the 1200 mile run. If they must wear boots, then our pets need time to harden their pads before being asked to accompany you on long runs.

If you have checked everything and found no reason for your dog’s lameness, call your veterinarian and take the animal in. It might be a broken bone, or even a nail driven all the way into the foot (that happened to one of my dogs), or a bacterial infection of the deep folds of skin at its junction with the nails. In any case, it is best not to put off having the problem diagnosed.