Friday, 9 March 2012

Penny's feet

Two days ago, when we were bathing Penny's feet in cool water - as we currently do after every outing - we noticed the skin of one pad was peeling back.

Of course we didn't freak out and wonder if our current regimen of cleaning twice daily for ten days with Malacetic wipes and applying Elocon once a day for three days has wrecked her skin completely, or given her some dreadful skin-destroying disease - of course we didn't...

But, just in case, we thought a re-visit to the vet might clarify things.

He said the peeling skin is a sign that something was wrong with it and it is peeling back to healthy skin. Phew! When I think about it, she's had a horrible hard patch on her paw (it looked like callus) since last November. And that's the paw that is causing the limp. BTW, he found a similar development on the other front foot, and suggested something in her gait may be causing this.

He once again checked her limbs completely, trying out every joint and reassured us that this latest limp is not likely to be joint-related. (Always a relief, given her previous cruciate repair.) He suggested we continue to work on getting rid of the hard, peeling skin, and gave us some chlorhexidine to use. We're to wipe the two paws every couple of days, working deeply to wipe or pull the loose skin off. When he did it she didn't seem to find it painful. But I do know that, like other dogs, she doesn't readily admit to pain.

PetPlace says of this medication:

Chlorhexidine is classified as a disinfectant or cleanser. It is used both to treat environmental surfaces, and in less concentrated forms, to treat the skin, ears and oral cavity. It is effective against bacteria, fungus, yeast and viruses.
Chlorhexidine is an OTC (over the counter drug) but should not be administered unless under the supervision and guidance of a veterinarian.
Chlorhexidine is used in veterinary medicine for the treatment and prevention of dermatological (skin) conditions and for the management of ear infections (otitis externa) and gum disease.
This drug can be used in the treatment of superficial skin infections, irrigation (cleansing) of wounds and as a medicated shampoo for the treatment of certain skin conditions (hot spots or acute moist dermatitis).
Chlorhexidine is not effective against infections caused by parasites (such as worms and mites).
Okay, that sounds like a good plan.

But then I remembered I hadn't told the vet I've been wiping Penny's paws with aloe vera gel. I simply break off a piece of leaf and gently rub it into the underneath of her foot. She didn't seem to mind this at all, even when the paw was quite sore.

PLEASE NOTE: Saturday 10th March 2012 - I have a subsequent post that looks at the pros and cons of use of aloe vera in terms of its possible toxicity.

I'm going to continue with the aloe vera, as well as the chlorhexidine, as I don't see that they should counter each other. In looking around to check this, I came across this informative answer at AllExperts to a query about paw problems. I like this answer because although it talks about alternative therapies, it doesn't dismiss modern veterinary medicine. I thought it had a good balance.

The query was about an akita who was licking her paws. Here's part of the answer:
Allergies can cause constant licking and swelling of the paws and accumulation of debris, creating a moist, warm environment that can cause an overgrowth of bacteria, yeasts, fungi and demodectic mites. Chewing and superficial infection allow deeper penetration of these organisms into the skin, creating a very itchy, and hard to break cycle.

The problem is really two fold: If the suspected allergy is treated but not the skin infection, it is unlikely that your dog would have complete or lasting results.

So you see, because your dog is chewing at her paws, she's at risk for developing secondary infections on her skin, which can quickly get out of hand. That is why your vet told you to keep your dog's feet clean, and why you should strictly follow that advice.

Gently wash your dog's feet with peroxide, at least once a day. Dry your dog's feet very well. If your dog will allow it, a hair drier on the low setting would work well. If it's possible, wash your dog's feet when she comes in from outside too, since grass or pollens might be aggravating or causing the itch.

If you can't wash your dog's feet each time she comes in from being outside, simply soaking her feet for 5 or 10 minutes, four times a day, in cool water can help control licking. For additional relief, add a sprinkling of Epsom salts to the water (1 teaspoon in 2 cups of warm water). Again, it's really important that you dry the dog's feet well after a soak.

Your vet asked that you get back to her in a week, you need to do that if you haven't done so. Treatment for an allergy is a long term and complicated thing, it might take months to get it under control, and the first course of treatment might not work, so other medications would be needed.

Since the problem is continuing, your vet may want to run tests for fungus, bacteria, or parasites, or take a skin scraping sample. In addition, she may prescribe medications such as steroids (Prednisone) which quickly relieve irritation and break the "lick cycle."
These drugs have the added benefit of putting the brakes on the immune system, which produces the allergy symptoms. Finally, pets with severe allergies may undergo a series of shots to help desensitize them to whatever they are allergic to.
In some cases, the vet simply isn't able to find anything physically wrong, but can still treat for the symptoms.
Aside from the medication your vet prescribes, the following suggestions might help control the itching, but these are not a substitute for vet care, and you should tell your vet exactly what supplements or over the counter remedies you are using on your dog.

Along with washing your dog's feet with peroxide (which is important that you do), also try this:
Brew a cup of tea as you normally would (regular black tea, that you can drink), then soak a clean towel in the cooled tea to make a compress and apply it directly to your dog's paw for three to five minutes, up to five times a day. Tea can discolor fur, so don't be surprised if your pet seems to be wearing socks when you are done. Tea contains chemicals called "Tannins", which help dry rashes and ease irritated skin. Dry the paws well when you're done- with a hair drier if possible.

100% pure Aloe Vera gel (not a blend!) can be applied directly on the paws. Aloe Vera gel comes from the Aloe Vera succulent plant and contains enzymes which break down inflammatory proteins and enhance healing. It really stops itching, and you can use it on yourself too. If you happen to own a plant, just crack off a piece and rub it onto your dog's paws. You can use Aloe Vera gel 4-5 times a day and after cleaning or soaking the paws, or whenever you see your dog chewing at her feet. It's safe if your dog licks it.

There's lots more advice in the post, and I'm saving the whole thing to my computer, because it's one of the best overviews of paw licking that I've seen.

We're going back to the vet in ten days, so here's hoping that the problem will be resolved by then.


curator said...

Oh Penny! Heal up soon! Parlance, I do so hope you see improvement in a couple of days so you don't have to worry any more.

parlance said...

Thanks, Curator! I try not to worry, because I suppose there could be much worse problems to deal with, but I sure hope she's feeling better soon.

Lassiter Chase and Benjamin said...

Thanks for the info! I never thought about applying Aloe plant to a dog's paw if there is a problem -- I know I've used Aloe plant on myself a few times for sunburn or small burn from touching a pot handle or something. It's good to know that if a dog licks Aloe it's ok. Thanks again. Hope Penny feels better soon.