The Toes Know December 22 2013

Patrick Jones, DVM


Scooter is a nice little sheltie. He has a lot of responsibility. He gets mom up for breakfast at 7 a.m. sharp every morning, circles the kids to keep them in a well-mannered flock in the backyard and, most importantly, defends the perimeter from undesireables. Not long ago this last part of Scooter’s job got him into trouble. One of the neighbor dogs had started a hole under the fence in preparation for a raid onto Scooter’s turf.

This, of course, was not acceptable and Scooter and the interloper started having an altercation via the half-finished hole. During the fight, Scooter’s foot ended up in the other dog’s mouth. Ouch!

When I saw him, it was clear that the foot was in real trouble. The flesh over much of the top of the paw and several of his toes was just gone and the bones and joints were exposed. To make matters worse, Scooter was showing the early signs of gangrene. A faint line of demarcation was beginning to appear which would mark the division between that tissue that would live and that which would die.

There was nothing to be done surgically...just not enough tissue to pull over the gaping wound to button things up. But, there was, in my experience, one thing that could help, Marshmallow. Marshmallow (Althea officinalis) is a most remarkable herb. In addition to its soothing mucilage that just makes everything feel better, it seems to have an almost magical property of convincing cells that are contemplating gangrene not to die. 

Our HomeGrown Herbalist Poultice formula is a blend of herbs that are wonderful for healing wounds. Some of the herbs are anti-bacterial. Others are anti-inflammatory. Still others stop bleeding or reduce pain. There are even several plants in the formula that increase the rate of cell division and speed healing. And, of course, there's marshmallow.

I mixed up the herbs in a small bowl with some water and made a paste. This I applied generously to the wound and wrapped it.

The next morning, Scooter came in for a re-check. The “gangrene line” was gone and all the remaining tissue looked healthy and vital. I applied more poultice and sent a jar home with mom with instructions. I saw Scooter again the other day. His foot has healed completely and he’s back to working full-time. Though, his owner says that these days, he keeps his toes to himself.