Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Yesterday was a trying day for one of my four-legged friends, and I wanted to put this out there as a PSA for other pet owners, given that I've had friends of the four-legged variety all my life and never encountered this issue before. I've since learned it's extremely common, so I guess I and my furry counterparts have been lucky.

My black lab Ashie had just come in from the backyard and was favoring her right front paw. I thought she'd probably picked up a sticker burr (aka sandbur, a nuisance common to Texas and dang near impossible to get rid of--even if you banish them from your own yard, they'll creep back in from the neighbors').

These don't look so scary, right? Wait til you step on one and start cussing a blue streak.
Image: http://imgarcade.com/1/burr-weed/

When I checked Ashie's paw, my hands came away coated with blood. Yes, coated. Not a few specks or spots of blood, but like I'd just taken part in a killing spree and hadn't gotten around to washing off the evidence yet.

Stickers hurt, and they might bleed a pinprick, but nothing more, so I freaked out, and freaked out further when I couldn't find the source of the injury. We don't keep any glass in our backyard, so there shouldn't have been any to break. There shouldn't have been any sharp objects out there at all--we're vigilant about dog-proofing the house and the yard.

Ashie's paw isn't the easiest to inspect--black pads, black nails, black fur (except for the bit of white she's picked up in her "senior" years), so it all blends together--and it took me a moment to find the source of the problem. It turned out that it wasn't an injury from a foreign object. She'd broken her nail, split it right down the middle, all the way to the base, exposing about a quarter inch of the quick.


I had no idea what to do, and it hurt her so much to handle it, I was afraid to do much of anything. I did disinfect it, and applied styptic powder to stop the bleeding, but beyond that I was lost. Would it work the same as a human nail? I've actually split a nail down the middle before, and even though it hurt like a hundred bastards, I was able to just disinfect it, bandage it, and wait for it to grow back. But dog nails aren't like human nails in the first place, and mine was a fingernail, so I wasn't putting pressure on it every time I took a step.

Since the vet wasn't open yet (this happened early in the A.M.), I turned to the source of information on all things, Google, and found mixed results. For my dog's sort of nail injury, with the broken piece still firmly attached, most advice ended in "take the dog to the vet". Some said to attempt filing off the rough edges of the broken piece or pull it off entirely, then bandage it and keep an eye out for excessive bleeding or signs of infection.

Given that I could barely touch it, filing it and/or attempting to remove it didn't seem to be viable, so as soon as the vet opened, I made the call. I'm glad I did, since the injury turned out to be fairly serious. They ended up having to fully sedate her in order to remove the broken piece, prescribed a course of antibiotics and pain pills, and did a far better job of bandaging her foot than I ever could've hoped to do. You can see that their handiwork looks perfect, and provides a great deal of support, allowing her to walk with minimal discomfort. My handiwork would've looked like the nonprofessional job it would've been, and I doubt I could've managed adding so much padding to the bottom without turning it into a lumpy, lopsided mess.

She was wagging her tail and acting like a goof per usual til I raised the camera, then she dropped into this "woe is me" pose. And they say dogs don't know what's what.

Looking like her usual sweet self (when she's not being a goof).

Yes? You keep taking my picture because?

So, how can your furry friend(s) avoid these sorts of injuries? My vet said the best preventative measure is to keep their nails clipped. We do, which obviously means injuries can still occur anyway. Another measure is to supplement their diet with olive oil, salmon oil, zinc, etc, in order to strengthen their nails. We're going to use olive oil. If you're interested in supplementing, ask your vet what would be best for your dog.

As for cats, I understand they can have similar issues, but mine tends to her own nail grooming via scratching post and has never had a problem. I'd assume clipping and supplementing would work just as well for them, but since I didn't ask my vet's opinion on that, I can't say for certain.

For any pet parents out there who find themselves in a similar situation, try not to freak out like I did. Yes, it can be fairly serious, but not the end of the world. The procedure itself only took about half an hour, then recovery time was about three hours, allowing for the grogginess from the anesthesia to subside enough for her to move around safely. That can vary from dog to dog. Some can be up and about in as little as an hour.

We'll be able to take off the bandage tonight (and have to keep it dry until then), have to continue the antibiotics for the standard ten days, and the pain pills for about five. As far as behavior modifications, she has to take it easy for the first few days. No running, jumping, etc. The nail should grow back to normal within a few weeks. There's a minimal chance of complication (infection), but the antibiotics will hopefully prevent that. Ashie seems fine, only slightly subdued in her behavior. Otherwise, her same sweet, playful, goofball self. Actually, we have to avoid too much playing rather than her being uninterested.

Still, who would've thought a broken nail would've turned into such an ordeal?

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