What Should I Do for a Dog with a Splinter?
Can dogs get splinters? Even though their paw pads are pretty tough, they can still be penetrated by thorns and splinters of wood, glass, metal or any other hard, sharp material. Dogs may be so focused on sniffing, playing or chasing a ball that they might not see sharp hazards that can end up as a splinter in a dog's paw.
Paws aren't the only body part that are at risk for splinters. Dogs don't tend to discriminate when they are chewing on something fun or delicious (they are missing that whole prefrontal cortex logic part of the brain), so they can sometimes end up with bone splinters stuck in their mouths.
Here's a look at how you can figure out if your furry friend has a splinter and what you can do to help them.
Signs Your Dog Has a Splinter
Now that you indeed know that dogs can get splinters, it's important to know the signs. If your dog suddenly starts limping, don't panic! It could be a simple splinter, thorn or insect sting. If you notice your dog is excessively licking or chewing at a paw or other body part, it could also be a splinter. If your dog is pawing at their mouth, drooling, refusing to eat, chewing only on one side or suddenly head shy, there could be a splinter in their mouth.
What to Do if You Notice a Splinter in a Dog's Paw
If you can see the end of the splinter poking through the skin, there is a good possibility that you can remove it yourself quickly and easily, provided your dog will let you. Remember — safety first! Even the nicest dog can bite if they're in pain. If you attempt this, make sure you don't push the splinter farther in. Don't be afraid to trim the hair around the splinter to make it more visible. Using tweezers (the ones from first-aid kits are the best for this kind of work), firmly grasp the end of the splinter. You want to pull it out slowly and smoothly to avoid breaking off any part of the splinter under the skin. Make sure to pull in the direction of the splinter and not up and out, as this has a tendency to break the splinter. After you remove the splinter, use a cotton ball or swab to apply some dog-safe antiseptic to the wound; talk to your veterinarian to get their recommendation for the safest antispeptics for your dog.
If the splinter is completely embedded under the skin or not visible to you, do not try to extract it. Doing so may cause stress and injury to you and your pet. You can try soaking your dog's paw in a bowl filled with a warm Epsom salt solution for five to ten minutes. Doing so may soften the area and bring the splinter close enough to the surface of the skin so that you can see it and grab it. You might also want to enlist the help of a friend or family member to help hold your dog to keep them relaxed and free you up to concentrate on getting the splinter out. Again — safety first!
When to See a Veterinarian
While a splinter is usually nothing to worry about, there are some situations where it's best to let your vet take care of a splinter. A vet needs to get involved if your dog:
- has a splinter in their mouth.
- has a splinter (anywhere) that doesn't come out in 24 hours.
- becomes agitated when you try to remove the splinter.
- is limping or licking the affected area.
- has an infection that appears to be forming.
Don't panic! Enlist the help of your friendly neighborhood vet who can extract the splinter, keep everybody safe and manage pain and stress.
Dogs can get splinters just like humans, but knowing how to spot the signs of a splinter and take care of it promptly can help keep your pup happy, healthy and splinter-free.
Dr. Sarah Wooten
Dr. Sarah Wooten graduated from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 2002. A member of the American Society of Veterinary Journalists, Dr. Wooten divides her professional time between small animal practice in Greeley, Colorado, public speaking on associate issues, leadership, and client communication, and writing. She enjoys camping with her family, skiing, SCUBA, and participating in triathlons.