When I let Sky out to go to the bathroom Thursday night, she lost her balance on the front stairs and wiped out. Just seconds before, I’d noticed she was limping slightly. Resettled inside, I noticed a few spots of blood on the rug. Looking at her paw, it was clear that she’d torn a nail.  She hesitated to move and when she’d move around, she held her paw aloft and whimpered in the most pitiful way. My girl is not a cry baby; this was more serious than just a split nail. Indeed, she’d torn her nail back to the quick. It was a long night.

Home from the vet

While I’m very good at patching up the pups, torn nails should be dealt with by a vet given the painful nature and also, if not correctly trimmed, infection will set in. Friday morning, we headed to the vet. In addition to the paw injury, Sky’d developed an ear infection (also overnight, making me wonder about the effects of stress). Our vet cleaned her ears, trimmed all her nails, addressed the broken nail, applied an anticoagulant powder, and wrapped her paw. During the procedure, Sky got really scared and pooped all over herself and the floor. They cleaned her up and gave me pee pads for the ride home. Including medication, the visit cost $135.00. Fellow pet owners will know that’s a great price.

I was told to keep the bandage dry and in place for a few days. She was walking with only a slight limp and all was well—until this morning. The girl tore off her bandage while I was making coffee and her paw began to bleed. I tried to put the bandage back on and re-tape it. Total fail. Sky 1, Jenn 0. Then, I wrapped her paw in gauze and pull a single tube sock over it, using a safety pin to pull it tight around her leg. She had that off (and the gauze) in about 10 minutes. Sky 2, Jenn 0. 

Mama outsmarted me
Mama outsmarted me

Feeling like I was in the bottom of the 9th inning with bases loaded and 2 strikes on the board, I hit a home run. I may not be as smart as a cattle dog, but I can totally outwit a labrador. I grabbed a matching tube sock, quickly attaching 1/4″ elastic (from my sewing stash) to each sock. I wrapped her injured paw in gauze and slipped the sock onto her foot and pulled it up to her elbow. I then slung the elastic (with attached sock at the other end) over her shoulder and slipped the second sock onto her uninjured paw. The elastic, stretched over her broad shoulders, acted like suspenders. Not only have they stayed UP, but more importantly, the punk—err, beloved labby girl— hasn’t been able to pull them off. 

Socks in place
I don’t mind my socks now

I think I’ll make an improved set by sewing the elastic to the sock as the hole has stretched a bit. Also, I think I’ll sew two strips of elastic, one on either side of the sock, to improve their function and long-term durability. As you can see, she doesn’t mind them that much. If a dog really hates having the sock over its paws, you could make an altered pair with the uninjured paw wearing a sleeve instead of a full sock (by cutting off the sock toe), or such.

On a final note, I’d like to make a plug for my vet, Midtown Animal Clinic in Davis, CA. They are a short drive over the causeway from Sacramento. Our vet, Dr. Hartinger, is amazing and so are the vet techs and office staff. They are warm, caring, and treat my pups like they are the most important patient to be seen that day. While Siddhartha is a the laid back patient who shows only mild trepidation, Sky becomes very reserved and fearful. Our vet doesn’t rush the exam, takes her time to explain all the options, and she or one of the staff follows up with a phone call the day after serious procedures.  The clinic has several vets and all of them, including the owner (who performed Siddhartha’s surgery) are great.

Given their incredible care, I’d pay any price, but their prices are shockingly affordable. When Siddhartha had 7 tumors and cysts removed last summer, the total cost was under a thousand dollars (including follow-up visit to remove his staples). While he was under, they also cleaned his teeth. During that process, they found a tumor growing on his jaw and removed that too. When I went to pick him up, I nearly fainted when I saw him—over 60 staples all over his little body. He is happier and more active post-surgery. I feel deeply indebted to them for such incredible care; it’s heartwarming. If you’re local, I highly recommend their services. And as you can see, so does fat cat Sweetpea, our resident nanny/nurse.

Our nanny and nursemaid, Sweetpea bathing Sky
Our nanny and nursemaid, Sweetpea bathing Sky

To make dog sock suspenders:

Two cotton socks
Approximately 20″ of 1/4″ elastic
Sewing machine (or needle) with matching thread)

Sew elastic (folding it under by 1/2 inch onto itself) onto the sock about 1 inch from the top of the sock. Put that sock onto the injured paw, lay the elastic across the dog’s shoulder and back, tugging it lightly to reduce slack, and eye the amount of elastic needed to reach the other sock. As Sky is quite tall, this amount turned out to be about 20 inches. If you have the time (I made mine out of immediate need and time was of the essence), measuring from elbow to elbow across the back would be best. Slip the second sock onto the uninjured paw and adjust the elastic to that it is a secure, snug fit (but not too tight to cause discomfort), and cut the elastic, leaving at least an inch tail. Take the socks off and secure the elastic to the second sock. Once sewn, slip the socks back onto the pup and tada.

I’m sure this design could be further improved and I may make a pair of woolen socks for cold-climate or rougher trail romps.