Help me help my dog!
November 15, 2006 9:01 PM   Subscribe

My dog (a truly gigantic poodle) got some kind of infection on the pad of one of his front paws. He continuously licks and chews at it and it's now a red, swollen, infected mess and clearly hurts him when he walks. We keep covering it with booties and socks--even tying them around his legs-- but he always manages to tear them off eventually. We really can't afford a vet, so is there anything we can buy (over the counter) or any kind of home remedy that might help it heal/make him stop chomping on it? I know nothing about this kind of thing, as IANAD for people or animals, but I can't imagine there isn't some solution... any help appreciated!
posted by dmaterialized to Pets & Animals (26 answers total)
See a vet about any infection (the primary infection causing the chewing and any secondary infection to the wound) and put a doggy cone on his head so he stops chewing his paw. You may need to "cone" him for several weeks until it heals for good. It sucks, but it's the only way.
posted by frogan at 9:03 PM on November 15, 2006

The longer you avoid the vet, the more expensive it will be. If you can't afford it now, you really wont be able to afford it in a couple of weeks.

I tend to say that health problems with cats double in cost for every 12 hours you ignore them. I don't know if the same rule of thumb applies to dogs, but I suspect it does.
posted by krisjohn at 9:12 PM on November 15, 2006

IANAV, but it sounds like what my Old English sheepdog went through when he had a foxtail seed lodged in his paw. Basically, it's the seed of a type of weed, and because of its pointy, spiked nature, once it dries up to a more hardened form & gets stuck in a dog's skin, it will burrow in deep and wreak havoc on the poor animal.

If your dog has fur that tends to get matted or tangled easily, it becomes easier for the foxtail seeds to attach themselves.
See this link and this one for more information, or google "foxtail seed" for more.

Note: it would help if you listed your location, as foxtails only grow in certain parts of the country (I'm assuming you're in the US.)

And as others have mentioned, you must see a vet, regardless of what the cause is.
posted by invisible ink at 9:17 PM on November 15, 2006

There is nothing you can get over the counter that will effectively deal with this. I know all about not being able to afford the vet, but many offoce work out payment plans. Call and ask.
Please take the dog to the vet.
He is in increasing pain. The longer you wait, the more life-threatening it can be.
posted by oflinkey at 9:18 PM on November 15, 2006

Please suck it up and take the dog to the vet. If he keeps chewing on it, it's possible that the infection can get into his bloodstream, which can be life-threatening. You can put a bell collar on him to stop him from chewing his paw, but he may need antibiotics to get rid of the infection completely and stop it from coming back. Really, it isn't fair to the dog to make him suffer like this.
posted by chickletworks at 9:18 PM on November 15, 2006

Seriously, you might say you can't afford it now, but you are going to have to afford it at some point. Infections, especially ones that have had a chance to take root, have to be treated with antibiotics, that's why the civil war killed so many people. Just suck it up and figure out how to pay for it. There isn't anything else to do. In your position I would regret not figuring out how to take my dog to the vet, that's just me though.
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:19 PM on November 15, 2006

Unfortunately, the head cone is really the only way to prevent him chewing on it. Regarding the infection itself, it might be something simple that can be solved with an antibiotic ointment, or it might be something more unpleasant, like a foreign body.

You might have to get the vet to at least diagnose the problem... if you opt for home-brewed, trial-and-error style treatments, you might get lucky, or you might do more harm than good, resulting in a much larger financial and emotional cost in the end.
posted by Krrrlson at 9:24 PM on November 15, 2006

Suggestions for dealing with vets when poor in this sick cat thread.
posted by mediareport at 9:25 PM on November 15, 2006

My vet, for example, charges $35 for an office visit, and I wouldn't think something like this would be expensive to fix. That said, my golden retriever gets hot spots, and I just clean them myself.

Clean the paw with warm water and antibacterial soap, dry it as well as you can (maybe a hairdryer if the noise doesn't freak him out), then pour Betadine all over it. Then cover it with a gauze pad and put a nice clean sock on it and tape it snugly with duct tape (tape the sock to itself, obviously, not to the dog!) You will need one of those head-cones to keep him from licking up the Betadine. (Betadine is delicious.) Just keep doing it until the infection clears up (you should see an improvement in 2-3 days) or gets worse (then it's vet time.)

IANAV, but this has not killed my dog. YMMV.
posted by Methylviolet at 9:33 PM on November 15, 2006

If this were a person, would you think twice about going to the ER?

GO TO THE VET. Explain your situation- they're there to help your dog, not suck your money away.
posted by mkultra at 9:50 PM on November 15, 2006

There is a company that makes an inflatable product which is an alternative to the headcone. I saw it today at my local pet store. Unfortunately, I can't recall the name of it, and my feeble google-fu is failing. That said, the size for a L dog, which a (standard or gigantic) poodle certainly is, was priced right around $45 or so.

That's my on-topic speech.

Off-topic: I mean this with the most compassionate spirit: If you have a pet that comes down with something like this and can't afford to take it to the vet, you're better off trying to find it an owner that can. These kinds of things can build up rapidly and can lead to some extreme suffering for the pup in question.

I live on a pretty meager income, but I have a credit card in store for emergencies. One of the main reasons I have it is just in case my pupper has a vet bill like this. Yeah, I put her health above mine, but if she was digging into herself to the point of drawing blood/inviting infections, I'd stave off all extraneous I had to resolve it.
posted by Ufez Jones at 9:56 PM on November 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

Bah... ^extraneous expenses^ ... ^if I had to^
posted by Ufez Jones at 10:09 PM on November 15, 2006

Wow. Do you have a credit card? Most vets take them and you can pay off the vet bill in time. This doesn't sound like it would be difficult for a vet to treat. I just wouldn't take the chance - get your dog to the vet.
posted by Ostara at 10:33 PM on November 15, 2006

Anti biotics are available at an aquarium store figure how many gallons your dog is and follow directions on the package.
posted by hortense at 11:28 PM on November 15, 2006

Relief of suffering ("red, swollen, infected mess") has to come before all extras. Imagine yourself in that situation -- in great pain, dependent on someone for treatment, and not getting that treatment.

Relief of suffering has to come before pride. Pride is just another extra. It is a much greater shame to make the dog suffer than it is to ask for help. It is no shame at all to ask for help on behalf of a helpless sufferer.

You must take the poor thing to the vet immediately. Today. Tonight. Right now. You are cruel if you don't at least try to get treatment. There are laws (civil and church and common decency, written and unwritten) against letting animals suffer.

Tell the vet you have no money, that you skipping meals and pawning belongings as it is, and that you would like to arrange the easiest payment possible. If you're lucky and you seem honest, maybe the vet will work for free and charge you only for the medication. If you belong to a church, ask the church for help. If you have family, ask family. If you have friends or neighbors, ask them. Ask other dog owners -- they will understand. Show them the dog's feet and let them go with you to the vet if they don't believe you.

And if that's true that you "really can't afford a vet" -- if you don't drink, you don't smoke, you don't eat snacks, you don't have cable TV, you don't have any television at all, you don't have electronic gadgets, you don't buy music, you don't go to movies, you cook all of your own meals, you're skinny, you eat just enough to live, etc., etc., and you still can't pay the vet's bill for something basic like this -- then you have to admit to yourself that you really can't afford to keep a dog, and you must find a better owner for it.
posted by pracowity at 11:57 PM on November 15, 2006 [9 favorites]

I'd also recommend you try to get to a vet - you need to find a short term way of minimising discomfort to the dog. However you should also realise that it can be tricky - even with a vet's assistance - to get some dogs to stop licking their paws - you will probably need to do some experimentation to find what works. We have a bichon who had this problem until recently. Here are some of the steps we took:
1. As Invisible Ink recommends check the paws carefully for splinters or anything else that could be causing pain. You need to get plenty of light onto the paws for examining them and use tweezers to take anything out. The dog will probably not be too keen on this but persevere.

2. Dogs such as poodles need to have their feet checked to make sure that there is not too much hair growing out of them. This can become matted and cause problems. You don't mention if you ever take the dog to a groomer or if you do this yourself. Again a visit to a good groomer could be worthwhile for advice or if your dog has bad matting on its feet.

3. Bathe the paws - there are anti-itch shampoos around or you could try dissolving some baking soda in the water.

4. Dry carefully and cover with antibiotic cream - and maybe something to prevent itching. The dog will normally now want to lick all this goop off his paws again so you might want to use a cone collar to stop him (at least for a few hours).

5. Finally be aware that paw licking can be a form of obsessive compulsive behaviour - the infections may be caused by the licking. You can get stuff to put on dogs paws (or on bandages) that makes them unpalatable for licking. You could try this.

6. If the licking is obsessive compulsive in nature then you need to consider the dog's lifestyle: is it getting enough exercise and is it the sort of animal that gets anxious when left alone?
posted by rongorongo at 3:08 AM on November 16, 2006

I agree with everyone else. Unless you or one of your friends has enough personal experience with veterinary medicine to figure out what's wrong with the paw and correctly treat it, the poor dog needs to go to the vet ASAP. You could spend $100 on at-home remedies which ultimately will not work and may end up making the infection worse and eventually causing the dog to lose his paw or entire leg or you could take that money and go see a vet. Explain beforehand your monetary limitations and they will do everything they can to work within them. Regular office visits are never very much and that will at least let you know what exactly is wrong and how much money it's going to take to fix the problem. Maybe the vet will be willing to work out a payment plan with you.

And please, start putting away a small amount of money every month for absolute emergencies. It would be better if you had a different fund for each type of emergency (personal, car, vet, etc). I know how horrible it is living day-to-day with no money to deal with the crap life throws and the peace of mind that comes with a small amount of money in the bank to cover these situations makes life a LOT nicer. I've had to juggle credit card and utility payments in the past to pay for emergency trips to the vet and while this was not fun for me, it was the only option.
posted by lynda at 3:50 AM on November 16, 2006

My beagle, Godot, just went through a very similar thing. It turned out to be an infected sweat gland. The vet put her on a mild antibiotic, which did nothing. Later I brought her in again and she lanced the red swollen puss bulb and drained it. Afterwards Godot was put on a strong antibiotic and the problem was solved in 4 days. She was happy, walking normal, no pain.


My dumb ass started getting lax on giving her the antibiotic pills and just a couple missed doses made it flair back up. Consulted with the vet over the phone, and just saw out the rest of her anti-biotic prescription with diligence which solved the problem completely. Godot is happy and healthy and snoring quite loudly next to me on the couch.

So the lesson is, whatever you do the solution is likely to involve antibiotics. It is very important to stick to the "use as directed" directions.
posted by jlowen at 6:13 AM on November 16, 2006

Please, please pay attention to what everyone here is saying and take your dog to the vet. If you can't afford a vet, you can't afford a dog.

One thing nobody's mentioned is a service called Care Credit; most vets use the service to offer what's essentially a low-interest credit card specifically for vet bills. You'll typically have up to a few years to pay off the bill.

You need to get your dog seen by a professional. To do otherwise is irresponsible and inhumane.
posted by jacobian at 7:19 AM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]

One of our dogs has managed to injure herself a couple times, then lick it obsessively until it turned into a red disgusting mess like you describe. At our vet's recommendation, a course of antibiotics, an over-the-counter topical antibiotic and the cone did the trick. After this happened for a third time, we made her wear the cone 2-4-7 for 6 freakin' months. This effectively cured her of obsessive hot-spot licking, and now, years later, she's perfectly healthy.

Plus, the comedic value of the cone must also be noted.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 7:39 AM on November 16, 2006

You need to take the dog to the vet. I was just about to mention Care Credit as jacobian did. Call the vets in your area and find someone that offers Care Credit, and then apply online. They are somewhat strict in terms of credit history, so if yours is not good enough to get you approved, call the vets back, and ask to speak to the Practice Manager and ask them about payment plans/options. Explain that you have already tried Care Credit and it is no go. Sorry for your dog. I hope things work out OK.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:01 AM on November 16, 2006

What jacobian said.
posted by box at 8:24 AM on November 16, 2006

My dog won't tolerate the cone, but I can put a sock on his paw, then ducktape it so the ducktape is on the sock, not his fur, but it's too snug to go over the joint. Much easier than it sounds.
posted by theora55 at 11:06 AM on November 16, 2006

Please, oh god, please don't put tape on your dog unless you know what you're doing! And duct tape!? theora55, I really hope you're trolling and not serious, because that's insanely stupid.

Look: in some circumstances it's appropriate to apply surgical tape on dogs' limbs (just like using athletic tape for sports-related injuries). However, improperly applied tape can cut off circulation, impair ligament and tendon movement, and even cause join damage (in extreme circumstances).

If a vet recommends sports tape (more likely they'd recommend vetwrap), and if you know or have been shown how to apply it properly, then no problems.

But duct tape and a sock? Did this turn into while I wasn't looking?
posted by jacobian at 7:08 PM on November 16, 2006

It's likely to be a foxtail or some other icky weed - it's very hard to get these out without a vet's help, and it's quite painful to the dog.
posted by radioamy at 7:12 PM on November 16, 2006

Oh also, if it does turn out to be a foxtail, you can help prevent this in the future by being careful where you walk your dog and avoid any wheaty-looking weeds.
posted by radioamy at 7:13 PM on November 16, 2006

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