The case of the wound that wouldn't heal

Just like little boys and skint' knees, wound-causing injuries seem to simply be part of hunting-dog life.

Sometimes these wounds heal easily and sometimes they don't. When they don't we call them non-healing wounds.

One of the most interesting cases of a non-healing wound I've seen was that of a beagle presented because of a big lump on his shoulder.

According to the owner, the lump had developed very quickly then seemed to heal up. But after what seemed to be an appropriate initial time of healing, the area would always swell back up and burst open again.

In this case, it didn't take long for us to get the surprise of lives.

During examination a hard object was felt under the skin in the lump. With much tugging, slowly a strange object pulled from inside the tissues. The result was a six-inch long, ¾-inch diameter pine tree limb!

Apparently while in hot pursuit of a hare his dog had run into the limb, it had punctured the skin and then broken off under the skin. The dog had continued to hunt, never missed a meal and never acted lame or otherwise unhealthy.

Wounds like this that refuse to heal usually stem from a few predictable sources, but they should not be confused with wounds that are healthy and are simply large or have incurred a significant amount of tissue loss.

The non-healing wound is one that either continues to worsen in spite of treatment efforts or seems to heal only to rupture open again and again.

All wounds go through the same stages of healing. Wounds that heal normally go through each stage the quickest, large wounds with tissue loss have prolonged normal phases and non-healing wounds get stuck at a particular stage — and sometimes regress.

The wound that closes, appears to be all healed and then ruptures back open is usually caused by the presence of some foreign substance in the wound.

This can be an environmental substance as in the story above, a part of the body that has died or become rejected or even medically implanted materials.

No matter how many different antibiotics you use or how long you use them you will never get these wounds to heal until you get the offending substance out.

One example of this is the problem with grass awns that get trapped between the toes. Once these pointy, barbed grass seeds are trapped, the wiggling of the toes forces them into and through the skin tissues.

Initially you probably won't see a big problem, but those little seeds are not supposed to be up in there and the body will not stand for it. The result are little wounds in-between the toes that will not get completely better until the grass seeds are removed — all of them.

I have had cases where we've pulled multiple seeds out of these draining tracts, sometimes three or four between each toe!

Another type of wound that will not heal without some help is an abscess. Abscesses are simply infections that have nowhere to go.

If an infection has a way to escape it will, and as long as the immune system of the dog is relatively intact your dog can probably lick the infection with little help.

But when an infection is trapped, wound healing will not occur.

The beagle above could very well of had an abscess on his shoulder, and certainly there was an infection present as part of the problem.

Abscesses usually occur from wounds where the entry is very small and heals quickly, not allowing time for the body to respond and force the infection out. Bites and other puncture-type wounds without foreign substances are classic examples.

Many sportsmen do a very good job of taking care of small scrapes and cuts on their dog, and there are a myriad of different notions, lotions and potions to use for such purposes.

For the most part a simple wound that receives prompt attention in the form of cleaning, dressing and sutures, if needed, will usually heal in about two weeks, never to return.

But, if you are not seeing a good response to your treatment within three to four days then have "delayed" wound healing, or possibly a non-healing wound, that needs further attention.