Has your greyhound started walking with a limp but you cannot see anything obviously wrong? You don't remember your greyhound twisting something when out playing or yelping out after bashing a leg. Does your greyhound tend to walk more comfortably on softer ground such as grass or carpet? But then start limping again as soon as they hit solid surfaces? If the answer to the above is yes, your greyhound could have a corn!
This blog is to help with all thing corn! What are corns? Why do greyhounds get corns? And how can you treat them.
What are Corns?
So firstly, what are corns? Corns are irritating growths that form in the foot pads of dogs. Greyhounds seem to be especially prone to developing these painful stone-like lumps. Corns are hardened areas of dead skin, thought to be caused by clogged sweat ducts. They start off small, like seeds, but over time they grow bigger. What started off as a tiny molecule becomes surrounded by new layers of skin and falls deeper into the pad. The further it sinks the more the flesh around it becomes inflamed. They can cause huge discomfort when pressure is placed on them, making even a short walk quite unbearable.
Why specifically greyhounds?
So why do greyhounds get corns? Why is it our gentle, gorgeous greys tend to get these nuisance corns more than other breeds?
Greyhounds are more susceptible to corns because their pads contain less subcutaneous tissue. This is the padding that lays between the bone and the skin or, in a dog's case, the pad. They have less cushioning to protect from abrasions and general "wear and tear".
Most greyhounds have also had a career on the track. Training and track-racing means more friction on the paws as they reach speeds of 45 mph (in just three strides!) These magnificent athletes spend a lot of time on their feet and become excessively hot while running. Canines only sweat through their pads so a racing greyhounds constant overheating and then cooling down can lead to a lot of clogged sweat ducts.
I know the discomfort that corns can cause. My first greyhound had them from the age of 7 years onwards. Tipps had a rocky time adjusting to domestic life with us initially, but it was just as he was enjoying time off-leash that he developed these bothersome contusions. The corns could well have been forming for some time but they only became painful as they grew bigger. It took us some time to know what was causing his obvious discomfort when we walked. Eventually we started to see the corn protruding from his paw pad.
We tried many different treatments to remove or reduce the corns, but unfortunately we didn't have a lot of success in the beginning. I felt awful each time I put him through a different solution, experimenting to see what would work. We even tried surgery. Our local vet had to cut to the bone to remove the corn, leaving a gaping hole in his pad. Tipps had a miserably long time bandaged up and out of action while his pad healed. And devastatingly the corn only grew back again anyway.
Greyhound savvy veterinarians
We also took Tipps to a vet that specialised in greyhounds. Greyhound's bodies are quite different to that of your average dog. Their physical make-up is designed for speed, giving them the ability to outrun any prime thoroughbred. They have less body fat than most dogs and their skin is thinner. The blood-type of a greyhound a high red blood cells count and lower white blood cells count. This allows blood to transport oxygen around the body quickly (remember how Lance Armstrong cheated his way to his Tour De France titles).
Also, greyhounds hearts are larger than most dogs, closer to the size of ours in fact, and their blood pressure is lower. This has caused misdiagnosis of heart disease in the past with vets that are unfamiliar with the normal sound of a greyhound's heartbeat. And all of the above means that greyhounds are far more sensitive to anaesthesia and need smaller quantities of sedation compared to other dogs comparable in size and weight. They are truly impressive dogs; real athletes of the canine world. However, I have digressed...
The veterinarian used a scraping techniques to cut away the corn over the course of three sessions and used a specially concocted balm to lace the wound and kill off any further remnants of dead skin. At the time Tipps had two corns. One disappeared forever, but the other grew back. Again!
There seems to be no irrefutable way to get rid of corns. It is also difficult to know what preventative measures to take, if there are any at all. Watching your greyhound limp around without relief is heartbreaking. I can only compare it to constantly having a stone in your shoe. Always sticking into the same place of your foot. And you can never remove said shoe.
Remedies and Treatments
There are ways to help reduce the discomfort without turning to surgical removal. Corns will not be removed but some greyhounds continue to be happy and active using these methods. They can live in relative comfort with some routine maintenance.
Based on my history with Tipps, and talking with owners, providing as much pain relief as possible is where you should start. It can sometimes result in the best solution for your greyhound.
My first advice would be to stick to soft surfaces where possible. This will reduce the force impacted on the feet and will ease the discomfort considerably. If you are able to drive to a park or field or if you have direct access to nice grassy commons, that would be ideal. However, for a lot of owners this is not possible, not for every walk, right?
My next suggestion would be to invest in a good bootie. Dog boots have been manufactured for a number of reasons to deal with unforgiving surfaces. They are an excellent option to greatly improve the quality of life for your dog if they are suffering from corns.
With careful selection, you can find boots that contain large amounts of toe padding giving them a springy, spongy landing with each step. After going through a few different shapes and sizes with Tipps, he eventually wore a boot on every walk. It was only removed once we got to a field where he could run freely. It was always replaced for the walk back home and with his boot in place, you wouldn't have known he had any issues with his foot. Well, accept the big boot on it 🙂
One point I would like to make here is that it is very important you take your time to get the correct fitting. All the manufacturers we shopped with allowed for returns with packaging opened and clearly the boot had been tried on. If the boot is ill-fitted it will cause more damage to the other area of the paw, through rubbing or reducing circulation. Eventually, they will not be happy to wear it and who would blame them if it starts to hurt more than the corn.
Preening and Trimming
My final suggestion is to do what you can to reduce the size of the corn. It is well known that corns can eventually "fall out" as a result of constant trimming. What I mean by trimming is using certain methods to take away parts of the corn where possible. Spending the time to attend to the corn(s) daily will lead to a much happier pet.
At their largest corns will form a dome-like swell poking out of the pad. If you can file this down using a standard emery board, you will not only reduce the amount of hard tissue that is pushed back up into the pad, it will slowly reduce the growth. As the tissue is already dead, your grey should not mind this at all. Tipps is always quite compliant until I have taken off all the excess corn and start to file away at his pad. I get the look!
Although this might sound like it hurts, try to pick the corn out. Using your nails around the rim of the corn, gently tug at the edges. Over some time this will start to loosen the hardened lump by microscopic measurements. Removing a corn is a long game. Try not to get frustrated that you are unable to loosen and remove the corn in a week or a month. Just do what you can, and what your grey will allow you to, to reduce it and ease the discomfort.
Applying a moisturising liquid on a daily basis is also an excellent way to decrease the hardness of the corn. It may not penetrate the whole mass but it will make some of it softer. Applying a moisturiser should always come after the filing otherwise it can make it more difficult to really get the corn filed down.
Filing the corn when it is dry and hard is much easier than when wet and soft. It also makes much more sense for the softening liquid to be soaked into the newly exposed part of the corn, rather than you filing it away.
Oil based products are preferable here, coconut oil would be my suggestion. If your greyhound is anything like mine they may want to lick the coconut oil off so either keep their heads away from the tempting flavour of coconut or pop a sock over their paw.
Surgery, Medication and Other Techniques
There are many options for corn removal and reduction remedies which could be the miracle medicine for your greyhound. My own personal experience has me advising you to steer clear of surgery. Your beloved hound will be placed under anesthetic, have a painful operation and a prolonged recovery time.
Most, if not all the other blogs I have read from other greyhound owners that have gone down this root have regretted it. Mainly because the corn always returns.
I have been reading more recently about laser surgery becoming popular and proving to be successful. Also, I see frequently that human corn and verruca treatments have worked on removing the corn - never to return. We did try corn treatment but did not entirely follow the instructions or continue it for recommended amount of time so feel that this could work if given the chance. The thing to remember is each dog is genetically different and could react to different solutions in different ways.
I would love to hear your stories and what has worked or is still working for you and yours.