Torn Muscles, Vaccinations, Bloody Stools

Torn Muscles, Vaccinations, Bloody Stools

Plus, Advice on Preventing Damaged Paws.

We go to Iowa every November for pheasants. First day is fine. Second, she's a little lame from insignificant nicks and cuts to her feet, between toes, on pads, etc. Third day, her feet are nearly useless.

Also, but not as much of a concern to me, is that even though we quit each day by noon or 1 p.m., she is very stiff and can't even get up to the bed. She lies motionless all night and won't even get up to "go potty" outside but is ready to go the next morning. When I put on my bibs she bounds off the bed and whines at the door.

So, if I wanted to hunt more than three days, we couldn't because of her feet, though she'd go until bloody if I hunted her that much. She's not stiff at home, shows no arthritis and has been examined for hip dysplasia. The doctor says one hip was mildly dysplastic, but not bad at all.

Granted, her exercise at home isn't as intense as four or five hours of hunting, but she does do up to two miles nearly every other day with me, jogging/fast walking on pavement. Before hunting season she does about a mile or so steady jog on gravel/dirt roads for a month for physical training.

So what's the answer to nicked and cut feet on my once-a-year trip? Sissy doggie boots (on my tough dog that sleeps beside my wife each night in the air conditioning)? Some way to toughen the tender web skin between her toes? I'd like to hunt a full week, but as I said, her feet are almost hamburger at the end of day two.

(Answer) Foot conditioning is the first thing I would consider and it sounds like you have made a good attempt to do that. Good foot care is also important and you should keep her nails trimmed short and all hair mats trimmed out of her feet. If any underlying disease occurs, then have it treated (staph infection, allergies and foreign bodies).

I've tried soaking feet in a mild salt solution to toughen the skin with varying success. Be sure you take time after each hunting session to wash her feet with a tamed iodine solution followed by thorough drying. Be especially careful to get out any accumulated debris.

I've used boots and had them work well--sometimes. Just be sure you condition the dog to wearing them well in advance of your trip, as many dogs may balk at wearing them, at least initially. Take the boots off after each hunt and do the routine foot cleaning. Also carry an extra set so you can dry them out when they get wet and replace the ones she loses.

(Question) I am an avid reader of Gun Dog and a hunter and I have a spayed nine-year-old "retired" English pointer and a six-year-old black Lab. I decided to write to you concerning an issue with my pointer as I value your input and my veterinarian seems stumped by the problem.

My pointer no longer hunts and has become a 53-pound couch potato and a family pet and until a week ago, other than not handling thunderstorms well, had not shown any real problems. A week ago my wife and I noticed that her left back thigh is larger than her right thigh.

I examined her closely, massaged the inner thigh where the swelling seemed to be and she did not seem to be in any pain. The swelling is definitely on the inner thigh of the left leg, there is no discoloration, and it is not hard to the touch, not hot to the touch and not red. In fact, there is no indication that it is anything but a large muscle. However, it concerns me that it is not like her other thigh, so I had my vet examine her.

Upon examination my pointer did not have a fever and seemed to be fine. My vet said he has not seen anything like it, but he gave me antibiotics and steroids to administer to my pointer for a few days. If at the end of that time the swelling does not go down he intends to do a needle biopsy or a regular biopsy.

I have valued your opinions and I would like your opinion as to what it could be. One other fact is that my pointer is so frantic during thunderstorms that she forced her way out of her crate twice last month through the bottom of the door without opening it--squeezing through a 12-inch space to do so. We have changed crates but I thought perhaps she might have herniated a leg muscle.

I'm hoping it is not a mammary tumor as I have lost one bird dog to cancer. I also thought it might be a lipoma but have never seen a lipoma on the inner thigh.

I would appreciate any thoughts you might have. Thank you for your help.

(Answer) A biopsy is a good place to start in an attempt to diagnose this problem. From your description I wonder if your vet will be able to localize an area that will give a representative tissue sample.

Certainly a radiograph would also be in order and would show if there was bone involvement. Sometimes muscles can be traumatized enough to cause them to have abnormal shapes when they heal. The muscle tendons can pull loose from their attachments and also the fascia that gives the muscle belly its form can be ruptured and the resulting bulge or davit gives a defective appearance to the body contour.

I think you are wise to try to diagnose the problem but if it is a torn muscle there is probably not much you are going to be able to do for it.

(Question) I asked a friend what heartworm preventative medication he uses to protect his English setter. The reason for the question was that I knew he used a unique product and I was entering retirement and would consider a change if it was cost efficient to do so. This was his reply:

"I use Ivomec Injection. But I don't use a needle. I fill up a syringe to a .5, take the needle off and spray it into the dog's mouth. Works very well. A bottle lasts about two years. For two dogs, the cost is approximately $40. It's good stuff. My vet uses the same thing."

I know another English setter man who uses the same product. I use Flavor Tabs by Novartis. They have worked without fail. Can I make the switch and safely use the product my friend recommends? A discussion of the various products and Ivomec would be enlightening.

(Answer) If you can treat two dogs for two years for $40 then you have saved a fair amount of money. I don't know what veterinarians in your area get for Heartgard Plus, for example, but I'm sure it is more than $40.

You should compare the dose of Ivomec you would be giving each dog with the dosage in your current medication. I think you will find that you are grossly overdosing your dogs. Again, for example, in Heartgard Plus the dose is 136 mcg per month for a dog 25 to 50 pounds, and 272 mcg per month for a dog

50 to 100 pounds.

More importantly, you have no idea how effective Ivomec--a hog or horse product--is when given orally to dogs. Obviously I'm on a "support your local veterinarian" kick.

This does not mean that we have all the answers and are infallible. You may have heard by now that the six-month injectable heartworm preventative has been pulled from the market by the FDA because of deaths and other side effects in dogs.

ProHeart 6 has been voluntarily withdrawn under recommendation of the FDA following a large number of adverse drug reaction reports. This product had no claim of efficacy against hookworms and roundworms, either, but then neither does the product you are using.

(Question) I have a six-year-old male yellow Lab that has had two severe reactions to his vaccinations. The first was when he was 12 weeks old and getting his puppy shots. The second time was when he was four years old. In between whenever he came due for shots my vet would give him some kind of shot (I can't remember what) before she gave him the vaccination and he would be fine.

The last time he had a reaction he did not receive this shot prior to his vaccinations, and we gave him Benadryl at home. Last year we did the titer thing and he didn't need any vaccinations. This week we again had titers taken. We should get the results in a couple of weeks. My question is this: Would you vaccinate if the titers are low?

My vet does not think we should vaccinate. I would like your opinion on this. Also, do you know of a place where the distemper vaccine can be obtained by itself and not as a combination vaccine?

(Answer) If your dog is six years old and has good titers to distemper and parvo, then I would consider not vaccinating for two or three years, at least. Be sure the titers are run at a diagnostic lab that specializes in canine titers. I use Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York.

I use a distemper-parvo vaccine from Intervet, Inc. I'm not sure if they have a distemper-only product. This product has given good titers and no reactions. A combination of distemper and parvo is not much of a load for the dog compared to those products that have five to seven antigens.

(Question) I have a seven-year-old German shorthaired pointer that has developed a severe case of bloody stools. This has happened three times in the last few months, each episode lasting about three days. It was so severe the last time that I took him to the vet, where they did extensive testing, had him on IVs for four days but found no clue for what was causing it.

He is doing much better now, but I don't think he's going to survive another episode. I've done some research myself on the Internet with little success. We live in Southern California in a very dry climate. The only thing I found that resembles his symptoms is oomycete infection: gastrointestinal pythosis. It doesn't fit our region at all, but we do have a pond (with algae) in the backyard that he drinks out of regularly. What are your thoughts?

(Answer) I would consider the small-bowel problems that resemble Crone's disease in people. Often referred to as lymphasitic/plasmacytic enteritis, this disease is responsive to diet change, prednisalone and metronidazole. Diagnosis is difficult and often requires biopsy to prove.

Contact Tom Holcomb, DVM, by email at

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