Veterinary Clinic: Dewclaw Removal, Disease Caused By Foreign Bodies

...Plus effects of neutering and uncontrollable wound-licking

(Question) I have a nine-month-old female Lab that we intend to hunt for duck, geese and rabbits. She still has her two front dewclaws. Our vet says it is common to have them removed so they won't snag and traumatically tear off when hunting. However, he follows this statement by saying that he has never seen a Lab get its dewclaws traumatically torn off. So I don't know what to think. I don't want her to go through surgery if it's not necessary. Do you have any advice that will calm my nerves? --KQW

(Answer) I've not seen many torn dewclaws in my years of practice but it does occur. The best time to remove them is at three to four days of age when it is a simple matter to snip them off with sharp scissors and cauterize the wound. The next best deal is to take them off when the dog is spayed. If you have it done at the time of spay surgery be sure to protect the wound with a bandage, changed every other day, until the wounds are healed. Adult-age dewclaw removals are in a spot that is inviting for the dog to lick.

One other observation I've made is that some dewclaws are tight up to the leg and others are rather pendulous and dangle out from the leg. The latter are obviously more prone to trauma. Also, the more pendulous kind is seen in the rear dewclaws if the dog should happen to have them.

(Question) Last week we put down a one-year-old pointer. She had been sick with an "on and off again" fever, loss of appetite and lethargy. Numerous trips to the vet and specialist brought no diagnosis. She was treated with "Doxy." She did feel better for a short period of time only to relapse. We put her down because after an emergency visit for breathing trouble an X-ray was taken and they found her chest cavity full of fluid and one lung collapsed.

Our vet asked permission to do an autopsy. What he found was a lot of fluid and one lung stuck to the ribs. We were really left with no options and no answers. Extensive blood work had been done for numerous tests and joint taps were also done. We currently have no answers. Our vet did send blood and tissue samples to Texas A&M.

I am really wondering about the possibility of spear grass causing infection or any other foreign body that would cause similar symptoms. In past years I have read articles about spear grass, but I have not been able to locate them again to reference the information. --MR

(Answer) This disease is high up on my Top 10 List of nightmare diseases. This disease occurs when the foreign body is sucked in as the dog runs. The material inhaled can be spear grass in your region or any other type of small, pointed seed head. In my region (central Iowa) brome heads and other grass heads are the common offenders.

As the offender travels through the body it sets up inflamed, infected areas and this shows up as intermittent fever with an elevated white blood count. With progression of the disease other bad things show up. These include fluid in the chest, as you saw, and draining fistulous tracts appearing usually in the loin area, flank or rump.

Treatment becomes fairly creative as the foreign body needs to be removed and the infection stopped if the disease is to be conquered. I use antibiotics for 90 days after all clinical signs have been resolved. I also tap and drain off the exudates in the chest. Typically it appears as a thick fluid the color and consistency of tomato soup. I try to culture these exudates but many laboratories are not successful at identifying the organism. It is usually Actinomyces or Nocardia.

Last year I had one case in which the foreign body came out in the loin muscle. Surgery was required to dissect down to the spine in an attempt to drain the tract and remove the weed awn. In another case the dog was not so lucky and the foreign body migrated up and injured the spinal nerves, causing a partial paralysis of the rear legs.

Bottom line in these cases: Treat aggressively and pray!

(Question) Can you give some straight answers on neutering my Lab? My concerns are, can it affect the dog's intensity and drive when it comes to hunting? Have there been any studies done? I am a responsible dog owner and understand the importance of leaving the breeding to the professionals as well as the social responsibilities concerning unwanted pets. I'm looking for hard facts (or at least your opinion) on whether neutering will affect my Lab's ability or desire to hunt. --SL

(Answer) There is not much research on this subject. It is certainly one that confronts a lot of male hunters. My bottom line on it is the old horseman's saying, "A good stallion makes a great gelding."

A few years ago the question of early neutering came up in reference to puppies and kittens leaving animal shelters for adoption. It was found in male animals that the only long-term difference between the early-neutered animals and the intact or late-neutered animals was that the early neuters seemed to grow a bit taller. This was explained by the lack of testosterone to cause early growth plate closure.

Neutering does have some medical benefits in that it eliminates prostate problems and testicular cancers. Neutered dogs do require less calories and that becomes a management issue for you to keep your dog's weight down.

(Question) I am confused over a subject discussed in the "Veterinary Clinic" column of the February/March 2005 issue. A reader stated that a friend doses his dog orally with ".5 Ivomec Injection." I assume that means 0.5 cc, since that would be about the correct amount for a 50-pound dog. My veterinarian recommends a dosage of 0.1 cc per 10 pounds of body weight.

Your response suggests the dog would be overdosed at that level. You list the Heartgard Plus dosage expressed in units of "mcg." What is mcg? Is it units of mass? If so, how does it relate to units of volume?

Novartis Interceptor Flavor Tabs list milbemycin oxime as the active ingredient. Ivomec lists ivermectin as its active ingredient. Are the active ingredients in the two products comparable? Do they work the same way?

I guess what I am trying to say is that a valid comparison would judge apples to apples and I am wondering if such a comparison is even possible.

I live in Hawaii where heartworm is a concern. Many hunters, particularly those with pig-hunting dogs, maintain large numbers of dogs. In such cases, heartworm medication is costly. That is the reason Ivomec is popular here. If it were truly believed that such use is harmful, I would go back to conventional prevention methods immediately, regardless of cost.

I hope you can shed some light on these questions. Thanks. --RH

(Answer) I was not comparing Ivomec injectable to Inter

ceptor. I was comparing it to Heartgard, which is the oral dog product containing ivermectin. The other critical point in this discussion is that you cannot compare these two products unless you state the concentration of the liquid Ivomec.

In the case of the horse product it is a 10 percent solution. The feeder pig product is a 2.7 percent solution. This means that the horse product has 10mg of ivermectin in each cc; the pig product has 2.7mg ivermectin per cc. If you look up a metric weight table you will find that 1mg equals 1,000mcg.

Now we have something to compare. At .5 cc of Ivomec per 50-pound dog, you are giving your dog 5mg or 5,000 mcg. The dosage of Heartgard is equivalent to 136 mcg per month for a 25- to 50-pound dog. This means you are giving 37 times the normal recommended dose of ivermectin.

If squirting the oral horse or pig product into a dog was such a good idea, why hasn't the drug company marketed it in that form? If expense is truly an issue, perhaps owning a fewer dogs might be the solution.

(Question) My three-year-old German shorthair recently started licking her front leg. She has a sore spot about the size of a quarter, and the hair is gone. My vet prescribed Diazepam, thinking that anxiety might be the cause. After two weeks and no improvement, I stopped that and got an over-the-counter spray called Bitter Apple. This seemed to help a little, but she still has the problem.

We moved to another home about three months ago, but she adapted very well and her lifestyle is the same. We have a large fenced backyard just like our other location. She comes in every night to be near us, and I take her with me a lot in the pickup. Her appetite is good and her great personality is the same as always. I'm 75 years old and have had a lot of bird dogs in my time, but this one might be the best hunter I ever had. She did fine in the field this past season. --BW

(Answer) You're on the right track but need to add an antibiotic to the treatment plan. After these things have gone on for a few days they become infected with staph and this causes an irritation in the wound that induces the dog to lick.

I use cephalexin or erythromycin and give it for a long period, 30 to 60 days. You might try Clomicalm to change her thinking about the wound. The big problem is that these wounds are typically on the anterior surface of the carpus, right where it is convenient to lick when lying around with nothing better to do.

Now answer a question from me to all of you. I'm going to be 64 in June. Should I get a pointer pup?

Contact Tom Holcomb at his e-mail address:

Popular Videos

Hand Signals, Part 1

There are four basic hand signals that are used in training your gun dog. James B. Spencer goes over what these signals are and why and when you should use them.

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 9

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 9

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 8

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 8

See more Popular Videos

More Accessories


YETI Boomer Dog Bowl Review

Jessyca Sortillon - October 25, 2018

Give your gun dog the perfect food and water dish – the new YETI Boomer Dog Bowl


New Dog Nutrition Products for 2015

Tony J. Peterson - September 01, 2015

Keeping a well-bred hunting athlete healthy is typically pretty simple; it just takes time,


2016 Father's Day Gifts for the Die-Hard Bird Hunter

Gun Dog Online Staff - June 01, 2016

If your dad is obsessed with birds, dogs and guns, then we have the right gear for him this

See More Accessories

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.