Friday 28 October 2016

My dog's foot was stapled back together when she cut herself on a woodland walk

When Sadie lacerated her foot, surgical staples provided a rapid, effective repair

Sadie is an energetic enthusiastic dog, and she loves her walks. Aisling's husband often takes her to one of her favourite destinations: Knocksink Woods, near Enniskerry. She enjoyed a particularly active run there last week, running around, leaping in and out of the river, up and down the hills and through the undergrowth.

Sadie has got to know some of the other dogs that are regularly walked there, so it's a busy social time for her too.

Immediately after the walk, it wasn't obvious that Sadie had injured herself: it was only after returning home that Aisling noticed there was a small laceration on the side of her foot. It wasn't bleeding at all, but it was gaping open, and it was obvious that it was a deep gash that would not heal on its own. She must have stood on a sharp object like a piece of glass or the edge of a rock.

It was a Friday evening, after our vet clinic had closed, and rather than rushing to the emergency service, Aisling took some sensible, simple steps to keep Sadie comfortable. She bathed the wound with mildly salty water (one teaspoonful of salt in a pint of boiled water).

Sadie wasn't licking it at all, and didn't seem at all upset about it, so Aisling knew that she'd be fine overnight.

The following morning, Aisling decided not to give Sadie her usual breakfast, in case she needed a general anaesthetic, and she then brought her down to see me.

I was having the usual busy Saturday morning clinic, with wall-to-wall appointments with sick pets, but I could see that Sadie's wound needed to be surgically repaired. It was only 2cm wide, but the wound edges were over 1cm apart. For the cut to heal well, the edges of the wound needed to be brought into close contact with each other.

The traditional way to repair a wound like this would have been to give a general anaesthetic and then to close the wound using a surgical needle with thread-like suture material. This can be a lengthy procedure, followed by a slow recovery for Sadie: she would take several hours to come around fully from the anaesthesia. Instead of this, I used a relatively new method of wound closure which was perfect for a busy Saturday morning.

First, I gave Sadie an intravenous injection of a rapidly acting sedative. She started to feel wobbly within less than a minute, and five minutes later, she was so drowsy that she was almost asleep. I was then able to clean up her wound without her feeling any discomfort.

After that, I used special surgical staples to close the edges of the wound. These are applied using a special device which is like a sterile version of an office stapler.

I just had to go click-click-click-click, and the job was done: four surgical staples had efficiently and effectively repaired the laceration.

Surgical staples are very different to office staples - the ends don't close completely and a small gap is left. This means that they push the wound edges together without the sharp staple ends going right through the skin.

Sadie was deeply sedated, and she didn't flinch as I carried out the procedure. Traditional sutures would have been much more painful and I would not have been able to insert them with just sedation.

I gave Sadie the antidote to the sedative as soon as I'd finished, and within five minutes, she was up and about. She was sent home with a cone collar to stop her from taking the staples out, and Aisling watched her carefully.

She was well-behaved and as a result, the wound healed well.

I removed the staples with a special implement after 10 days, when the laceration had healed perfectly.

Sadie has returned to her usual runs in the woods. I'd love to think that she might try to avoid sharp edges in the future, but that may just be wishful thinking.

> Surgical staples are a new and effective way of repairing small wounds

> Sedation is often all that's needed, rather than full anaesthesia > Most dogs leave stapled wounds alone, allowing rapid healing

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