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Pete's Pets

Suki is an exceptionally thin-skinned dog. This doesn't matter in her usual day-to-day activities of lounging around the house and going for walks on the leash. But when she goes for a run, off the leash, she's prone to bumping into sharp objects, lacerating herself.

The first incident happened soon after Stacey had taken her on as an adult rescue dog. Suki was playing in Stacey's garden and she did no more than scrape against a rose bush as she dashed past. The rose thorns caused a one-inch-wide laceration in the skin on the side of her chest.

Suki had to be taken to the vet to have the gaping hole stitched back together. The second episode happened nearly a year later: again, she was playing in the garden, but nobody saw what happened this time.

When Stacey called her in for dinner, she noticed that there was a large cut on the underside of her abdomen. Once more, she had to be taken to the vet to have the wound repaired.

Just three months later, Suki suffered almost exactly the same type of tear to the skin of her abdomen, on the opposite side, and this time Stacey saw exactly what happened. Suki was playing with Stacey's other dog, a small terrier.

He was chasing Suki, and in the height of the game, he leapt at her, as dogs do in their normal boisterous rough and tumble.

He launched himself at her with his mouth open. In most dogs, no damage would have been done: the combination of fur and thick skin would have provided protection.

fragile

Suki's fine fur and thin skin were too fragile for the impact of the terrier. As before, the injury was more than a graze: it was a full-thickness cut right through her skin, as if she'd been slashed by someone with a sharp blade.

Luckily, the vital structures beneath the skin were not damaged, and the superficial wound could be stitched back together without too much to worry about.

Suki is a fast healer, and as on previous occasions, she made a full recovery within a couple of weeks.

In the past week, the most dramatic incident so far happened. Suki was playing with her terrier friend in the garden; Stacey was nearby but not watching what was going on.

She heard a loud yelp, and rushed over to see what was going on. Suki was standing there with blood gushing from a wound on her right foreleg.

Stacey did her best to stem the flow of blood by wrapping kitchen towels around the leg, and rushed Suki down to our clinic.

Suki was able to walk into our waiting room, but blood was still pumping from the wound: one of the major blood vessels in her front leg had been severed. She needed to be admitted for an anaesthetic so that I could stop the bleeding and repair the wound.

She now has a large bandage on her front leg: I suspect she'll heal well, as she has in the past, but Stacey is concerned for Suki's future: something has to be done to stop this from recurring.

play

At this stage, Stacey wonders if rough play with the terrier could be causing more of an issue than she had previously thought.

She doesn't want to separate the dogs because they have so much fun playing together.

Stacey jokingly said "she needs a suit of armour", and this reminded me of a genuine possible answer.

You can buy custom-made Lycra body suits for dogs, manufactured in the USA.

They are used for a variety of reasons, such as stopping dogs from licking wounds, but they do provide an extra level of protection for fragile skin.

Could Suki become the first Irish dog to wear a 21st century suit of armour?

l Some dogs are exceptionally thin skinned

l Recurrent skin lacerations can become a serious problem

l Dog body suits are available from www.k9 topcoat.com


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