Pets With Acutely Swollen, Painful Feet

Pets’ acutely-swollen feet can be a diagnostic dilemma.

Little Petey Boy, shown below, was the subject of a phone call from his distressed mommy this morning, when she took him outside to use the bathroom and he hollered, then held up his left front foot. Immediately the little dog’s foot began to swell and his owner rushed him in to see us.

Petey Boy is a pretty boy, but he is sad because his foot hurts!

Petey Boy is a pretty boy, but he is sad because his foot hurts!

As Petey lives in the country it took about 30 minutes for him to arrive, but a quick initial assessment told us there were no broken bones and no infection, so we administered a fast-acting corticosteroid injection. The antiinflammatory action of this particular steroid was just what the doctor ordered, and the swelling was going down within minutes.

After the injection I carefully examined the foot for puncture wounds, bites, stingers, etc. I found none. No clues to help us know what the cause of the sudden pain and swelling was.

This photo, taken just minutes after Petey's injection, shows the foot still inflamed, but much less swollen.

This photo, taken just minutes after Petey's injection, shows the foot still inflamed, but much less swollen.

My very first experience with an acutely-painful foot was in the summer before I began veterinary school. Our dog, Sam, was digging around the stump of a dead pine tree. Suddenly he held up his right front foot, screaming bloody murder. Now, if you’ve never owned a Beagle you might not know that they are very vocal, and have a low pain threshold. Not what you’d expect for a rough, tough hunting dog, but that’s the way they are.

I grabbed up my Sam, tossed him into the car and around the corner to the veterinary school I went. Two hours later, after having been examined by five senior students and three professors, we still didn’t know why Sam had been hurt. We only knew that he was better.

The way doctors are put together, we like to know why things are and how they work. When presented with a hurting foot, we want to know why that foot hurts. Sometimes, though, the secrets are not revealed to us and we must be satisfied with response to treatment.

In cases like Sam’s and Petey Boy’s, we are happy simply because our patient is no longer hurting.

See you tomorrow, Dr. Randolph.

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