Before you can help your pet feel better, you have to figure out what is making him limp. Here are a few easy-to-follow guidelines: If you let him outside and he came back limping, he probably did something to injure himself. If, on the other hand, he was fine when he went to sleep, but woke up as creaky as an old war hero, he may have a more serious underlying problem.
If your pet simply has a cut pad, all you have to do is clean the area well. Most cuts aren't a problem since they are usually shallow and will heal quite quickly, says John Daugherty, D.V.M., a veterinarian in private practice in Poland, Ohio.
To clean the foot thoroughly, soak it in a mixture of Betadine Solution and warm water. (Add the Betadine to the water until it is the color of weak tea.) Soak the foot for 10 minutes, three times a day, and repeat for about four days, says Dr. Nisson.
If the area is already infected -- signs of infection include pus, swelling, or a bad smell -- call your vet since your pet will probably need antibiotics, Dr. Nisson says. The same is true if there has been a deep puncture wound, such as from a long thorn, since these often get infected. In the meantime, you can make him more comfortable by holding a damp, warm cloth against the infected area for about 10 minutes. This will help the infection drain.
If you can't see anything wrong, and your pet doesn't seem to be in a lot of pain, he is probably just bruised and needs a day or two to recover. To reduce swelling, put ice cubes in a plastic bag wrapped in a towel and hold it against the sore spot for about 10 minutes. Repeat this three to four times during the first 24 hours. On the second day, put the ice away and apply a warm compress for 5 to 10 minutes several times a day, which will provide quick relief, says Dr. Nisson.
Aspirin is another way to provide quick relief -- but only for dogs since aspirin can be dangerous for cats, Dr. Nisson says. When your dog is limping, he recommends giving him a buffered or coated aspirin (like Ascriptin). The usual dose is 10 milligrams for every pound of dog, given once or twice a day, but be sure to check with your vet before giving your dog any medications.
There isn't much that you can do if you suspect a bone is broken -- except, of course, to get your pet to the vet right away, says Joanne Hibbs, D.V.M., a veterinarian in private practice in Powell, Tennessee. To prevent your pet from causing further injury, it is important to keep him as still as possible. Dr. Hibbs recommends keeping your pet in a crate or on a leash until you are able to get him to the vet. In some cases, you may need to splint the leg as well.
Even though you can't treat Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever at home, there are ways to prevent your pet from getting sick in the first place. Since both diseases are caused by ticks, take a flea comb or a comb with closely spaced teeth and go through your pet's coat every day to remove ticks before they have a chance to latch on. Doing these daily tick patrols can vastly reduce the chances that he will get infected, says Dr. Fioramonti.
If your dog has growing pains, giving aspirin can be a big help. You can also try switching from a puppy food to a food for adults, Dr. Fioramonti suggests. Adult dog foods have less fat and protein, and appear to sometimes be helpful in reducing growing pains.
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