Shyla, a 1½ year-old female Huntaway presented to the Feilding clinic with, as Suzanne described it to me, ‘the most horrible foot you've ever seen!'
We didn't know how Shyla had managed to injure herself but she arrived with a large cut/wound on the underside of her left hind paw which ran from one side to the other - amongst all the pus you could see right down inside her foot and visualise the tendons in the foot as they ran off up her leg. Her foot had swollen to about three times its normal size and there was so much infection present that pus had burst out two holes on the top of her foot between the toes. It was fair to say Shyla's foot was pretty smelly.
Straight away Shyla was started on two types of strong antibiotics (along with pain relief medication) and as we were initially concerned about a "flesh-eating" bacterium, a wound swab was sent for culture at the laboratory. The results later returned showing that there were five different types of bacteria present - but luckily nothing that couldn't be managed with broad-spectrum antibiotic cover.
Because the wound was so badly infected it was impossible to repair surgically, so we started managing it with careful cleaning and wound dressings. The dressings we first chose to use were designed to draw out bacteria and adhere to infected tissue so that when the dressing was changed, this tissue was removed. Shyla had to be sedated for dressing changes so as not to cause her any unnecessary pain or discomfort. There was initial concern that her foot was so badly infected, her leg may have required amputation - but Shyla's owner was willing to give her a chance and much to our surprise there was a visible improvement in the first 24 hours.
For the first 8 or 9 days, Shyla had her dressing changed daily. After this time it was clear that we were "winning" and the wound was looking fantastic so the dressing type was changed to one that promoted new tissue growth and wasn't so painful to remove - we trialled a dressing change without sedation, and Shyla was a superstar patient! Shyla's body was busy making new granulation tissue and the wound was slowly shrinking in size and healing before our eyes. Once we got to the point of not needing to change the dressing every day Shyla went home with strict instructions to keep her foot clean and dry, and return to us for dressing changes every 2-3 days.
Almost a month after we first met her, we finally decided that ‘Shyla-the-miracle-foot-healing-dog' was done with bandaging and her foot had healed well enough to be left uncovered. She returned to see us another week later and you'd never know she almost lost her foot - the healing power of the body is simply amazing!