Steel shot is for waterfowl, not dogs.

Not that any kind of buckshot is that good for a dog.  This has been a heavy week for trauma.  We had a guy who was horribly lacerated by large dogs.  After removal of dead tissue, partial closure of wounds, surgical drains, four days on I.V. antibiotics and fluids, hot compresses, hand-feeding and general heavy-duty nursing care, he’s doing okay.  The dog whose foot got run over with one toe mashed off — we’re still having trouble with that one.  Crushing injuries are the worst.  I think we’ll save the foot, but we’re not out of the woods yet.

Xray_2 A little bird-shot is a bit of an occupational hazard for a working retriever.  Sometimes folks are not all shooting in the same direction at the same time, and the guy bringing in the ducks gets more than he bargained for. 

Fortunately, this was from some distance.  The pattern of shot is pretty spread out and the pellets only penetrated about 1cm from their entry wounds.   With lead pellets, the body will encapsulate them and they are pretty inert.  If you leave them alone, they rarely cause any problems (provided they are not impinging on some vital structure).   It doesn’t cause lead poisoning when it sits there, though it would if you ate it.  And thereby hangs the tale.

Around 1990, folks decided that those bottom-feeding waterfowl were getting way too much lead poisoning by eating shot that fell into the water (after missing its target).  Thus, it came to pass that a law was passed mandating the use of steel shot for waterfowl hunting in any federally managed wildlife area.  When the birds eat steel shot they don’t get poisoned.  On the other hand, steel shot is not inert in the body.  It corrodes, and this can produce inflammation.  In fact, in 1991 a study was done comparing lead pellets to steel after surgically implanting sterilized pellets.  The lead pellets caused no problems, and the steel pellets festered and got nasty.

Shot_2 So, does the same thing happen when dogs actually get shot?  I’ve had a hard time getting an authoritative answer, but if it were a very big problem, I think you’d hear more about it.   I’ve got a test case going now, though.  Here are six steel pellets that I removed today.  These six were easy to get to (relatively speaking, that is — it’s more complicated than the "hot knife and a bottle of whiskey" used in many a Western movie). 

Max_2 Max has one more pellet left.  If you look carefully, you might be able to see its entry wound just back of and above the surgical site at bottom left. It went deep into his cheek tissues and would have taken a lot of exploring to find (meaning: a lot of pain and damage for questionable benefit).  So, we’ll just wait and see how much trouble it causes.  None, I hope.

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