Cut to the Quick

June was another eventful month for A.J.  He started  the month with a fun swim in the river, and ended the month with his head in a cone. That’s A.J.

As I mentioned in our last post, we took A.J. to an off-leash park on the river and he had a blast running, swimming, and rolling around in the mud. It was a great day.

A couple of weeks later, my little daredevil managed to hurt himself. It was a Friday, and I was working at home that day. Greg took A.J. for his walk in the morning, and when they got home I heard the back door open and A.J. ran outside to bark at some squirrels. When he came back in the house he ran into the office to say hi to me. I petted him, then went back to work.

A minute later I realized I was hearing an unusual amount of licking (a lovely noise, as everyone with a dog knows). I turned to see what the problem was and noticed he was very busy licking at a front paw. I got down on the floor to take a look and – it was pretty ugly. I could see right away what he’d done, although I’d never seen anything like it before. A.J. had torn a nail.

For anyone who doesn’t know about dog nails, I’ll explain a couple of things. On their front paws dogs have four toes, with a fifth, called a dew claw (sort of like a small thumb), higher up on their leg. Each nail has a vein running through it called a quick. If you cut a dog’s nail too short you can cut the quick, at which point horrifying amounts of blood start pouring out of the dog and it can be very difficult to stop.

When I looked at A.J.’s dew claw, I saw two things: a nail and a quick. Unfortunately they weren’t in the same place. The quick is supposed to be inside the nail, but A.J. had managed to tear the nail away and leave the quick exposed. Fortunately the quick had stayed intact and wasn’t bleeding.

Quick separated from the nail
Quick separated from the nail.

Of course I hadn’t bothered to find a vet after we moved. I started looking online, reading reviews, and not wanting to take him to anyone other than our own vet who is now 600 miles away. So in all my indecision as to where to take him, I decided to just watch him for the day and see what happened.

Well, what happened was that the poor guy got to spend the day in a good bit of pain, and on Saturday I just picked the closest vet and brought him in.

The vet explained that she needed to remove the nail, then bandage the leg and send him home with antibiotics and something for the pain. She said depending on how he responded she might have to sedate him a little. Knowing that A.J. is very sensitive about his feet, I told her she’d have to sedate him a lot. I wasn’t wrong.

Sleepy and bandaged
Sleepy and bandaged after getting his torn nail removed.

We had walked to the vet’s office, so while they took A.J. back to work on him Greg and I walked home to get the car. A.J. was a very sad sight when we picked him up 45 minutes later. He was drowsy, bandaged, and wearing a cone of shame. The vet tech led him out into the waiting room and A.J. walked right to me, ran into me with the cone, and just stood there. We led him out to the car where Greg picked him up and put him in back. When we got home, Greg picked him up out of the car and set him down. There are two steps to get into the house. A.J. stood at the step, lifted his leg to step up, but couldn’t find the step. Greg picked him up again and set him down in the house. I managed to get him to stagger to his bed before he collapsed half-on, half-off the bed.

A.J. was out of it for most of the day. The next day he was back to his old self, ready to go for his walk first thing in the morning. After three days we went back to the vet to get the bandage removed. We were told the leave the cone on for a couple more days, at which point it wouldn’t hurt for A.J. to lick at it a little as long as we kept an eye on him and he didn’t get obsessive about it.

Well, that wasn’t the case. We were supposed to keep this open wound clean and dry, but that’s not easy when you have a crazy dog. We kept the cone on him most of the time, only taking it off for meals and walks. After about a week I decided not to put the cone back on after he ate breakfast, but I kept a close eye on him. I watched as he licked his foot, I told him to stop, he started bleeding, and the cone went back on.

The cone of shame
A.J. in his cone of shame.

After two weeks he was supposed to be out of the cone completely. Today was the two week mark, and he hasn’t had the cone on all day. It looks like he’s finally healing up, although the vet said it would be a couple of months before the nail grows back. In the meantime, he seems to be doing fine.

We thought when we moved away from a part of the country that has cheat grass we’d have fewer trips to the vet. We should have known better.