Spring is in the air (FINALLY)! Whilst we all rejoice that hopefully this will mean the end of muddy dog walks is in sight, it also signifies the start of ‘Nettle’ season which can really irritate your dog, particularly his paws if he runs through a patch of new particularly potent shoots on his walk.
Humans that have experienced the pain caused by a stinging nettle will remember that the discomfort will begin soon after contact with the plant. Such is the case also for our canine friends. Some of the most reported symptoms in dogs who have brushed against or ingested the stinging nettle are:
- Redness of the skin
- Swelling of the skin
- Intense itching and burning
- Pawing at the mouth
- Labored breathing
- Loss of coordination
- Dilated pupils
- Twitching muscles
As with the treatment for Bees (an acidic poison) and Wasps (an alkaline poison), the key thing to remember when attempting to treat nettle stings is that the poison which makes up the nettle “venom” is made up of an acidic compound. In order to soothe and neutralise the effect of that acid sting, you will need to apply an alkaline solution to help calm and treat the irritation. Alkaline preparations such as bicarbonate of soda or toothpaste will certainly sooth such an irritation as the alkaline counteracts the acid in the nettle sting.
As soon as you get back from your walk, if you think your pup may have been in contact with nettles:
1. Wash the area (be that the pads, the whole paw, or even if you notice raised bumps on the legs or other parts of the body) with soap and water as soon as possible to relieve the stinging sensation. Nettles are covered with tiny hairs which act like minute rods of glass which scratch the skin and deliver the acidic poison. Washing with soap and water in this way will help to remove these small glass hair filaments.
2. Make up a paste of baking soda and water and carefully apply it to the effected areas. Beware your pup may well try to lick off the paste so it’s worth considering offering your pet an enrichment toy/stuffed Kong/Treat Puzzle etc to distract him once it’s been applied to give it time to work it’s magic!
3. If possible, try to prevent the dog from scratching or rubbing the itchy areas as this will merely aggravate the sensation and make it itch more. Again, consider offering your pet an enrichment toy/stuffed Kong/Treat Puzzle etc to distract him from the itch(!)
4. If your dog has been prescribed Piriton antihistamine BY YOUR VET, then it is safe to give a dose to your dog. Should you find that the reaction goes down and then recurs, you can repeat the dose suggested by your vet six hours later should this be necessary.
5. As with any allergic reaction, you should obviously pay close attention to your dog’s airway and if you feel his breathing is in anyway compromised by his allergic reaction, then you should call your vet immediately as it’s likely your dog is having a more intense reaction to the sting and pain, an injection of atropine sulfate to counteract the poisoning and nerve sensitivity may be given by your vet, along with an antihistamine to relieve inflammation and swelling that may have resulted from the nettle penetration.
Hope this helps!
All my love,