FIRST AID IN THE FIELD - Entry #1 (Paw Lacerations)

March 29, 2009

It's a fear of everyone who hikes or camps with their dog. Imagine this. You and your pooch are taking a stroll, miles from civilization. He sniffs all around and bounds along a few yards in front of you to investigate something interesting he has discovered. Suddenly, he yelps! Something is wrong, but you don't know what. You're in the middle of nowhere. What do you do?

In this blog series - FIRST AID IN THE FIELD - you will learn how to treat your dog if you can't get medical attention right away.

One of the most common injuries that occur outdoors are paw lacerations. Anything from stepping on anything from glass to sharp rocks can cause a cut to the pad and make it bleed. If your dog cuts his paw the first thing you must do is assess the injury. Likely, the injury is painful, but not serious. Nevertheless, you should examine the paw carefully as each case is different.

Next, clean the wound with hydrogen peroxide or clean water. If possible, remove any visible debris. Now you will need to bandage the paw.

Christina Chan, writer for Dogs for Kids magazine, offers instructions for bandaging your dog's paw. Follow this step-by-step guide when bandaging a lacerated paw:

Bandaging Basics
1) Rinse the wound with hydrogen peroxide or clean water. Never use water from a river, lake or other natural source; it could contain contaminates that may infect the wound.

2) Wind rolled cast padding around your dog's leg from top to bottom. Once you've covered the site of the foot pad, wind diagonally back up and trim. The bandage should not be uncomfortably tight.

3) Next, repeat wrapping the leg with a stretchy tape, such as Elastikon or Vetrap.

4) Repeat the process with white tape, such as Wet Pruf, to add stability and waterproof the bandage. (See diagram below)

After you have properly bandaged the paw, take your dog to the vet at the next opportunity. Your vet will be able to better assess the injury and will take the measures needed to avoid infection.

One way to help prevent paw lacerations is to "toughen up" your dog's paws to get him use to outdoor terrain. A couple of weeks before your hiking /camping excursion, walk your dog for about 30 minutes a day on a variety of surfaces, including cement and gravel. This will help him develop needed calluses on his paws.

As with anything, BE PREPARED. Simple knowledge and preparation can mean the difference between life and death for your best friend.

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