Dogs and cats have protective pads on their toes, but they can still pick up thorns, burrs or other foreign objects. If your pet is limping, examine its paws. If you can see a foreign object embedded, pull it out with tweezers. (If it’s deeply embedded, bathe the paw several times a day in a warm solution of 1 teaspoon salt in a cup of water to draw the object to the surface so you can remove it.)
After you’ve removed any foreign object, wash the skin with soap and water to prevent infection. Check the wound every day. Swelling and/or an oozing sore are signs of infection. You may want to give your pet some echinacea (Echinacea spp.) tea to help its immune system fight off the infection; see the guidelines below. (If your pet is listless and has dull-looking eyes, or if you suspect a more serious infection, you should check with your veterinarian.) When the oozing has stopped, keep the wound clean by wrapping it in a calendula (Calendula officinalis) compress. Calendula preparations are widely used to treat slow-healing wounds.
Echinacea increases the ability of immune-system cells to attack foreign invaders and fight infection. Humans use the herb to fend off colds and flu. A small amount of echinacea also can help your pet recover from a minor infection that accompanies a wound.
To make a tea, boil 1 cup of water and pour it over 1 teaspoon of dried (1 tablespoon of fresh) echinacea roots or leaves. Steep, covered, for 15 minutes. Strain the liquid into a jar and let it cool. Make a fresh infusion daily.
Alternatively, you may dilute 3 drops of echinacea tincture in 1 teaspoon of water (9 drops tincture in 1 tablespoon of water), then use the dosage guidelines.
Fill an eyedropper with the recommended amount of tea or diluted tincture and squeeze it into your pet’s mouth. Administer the tea three times daily for no longer than a week. If the infection shows no signs of improvement or gets worse after several days, call your veterinarian.
If your pet resists taking liquid echinacea preparations, try capsules: 1/2 capsule three times daily for cats and dogs weighing less than 20 pounds; 1 capsule three times daily for medium-sized dogs; and 2 capsules three times daily for dogs weighing more than 40 pounds. Just open the capsule(s) and sprinkle the powder on your pet’s food.
Applying calendula flowers to cuts and wounds to help them heal is a centuries-old tradition; scientific studies have shown that calendula preparations reduce inflammation and promote the growth of healthy new tissue.
Calendula tea is made exactly like echinacea tea, but you don’t need to strain it. While the tea is cooling a bit, cut some terrycloth into strips long enough to wrap several times around the paw. When the liquid is comfortably warm, dunk a strip of towel into the liquid, wring it out and wrap it loosely around the paw over the wound. Wrapping it tightly could cause more pain. If your pet will allow it, keep the compress against the area for 15 minutes, refreshing it in the warm liquid halfway through this period. Repeat twice daily for as long as a week.