Does your limp suddenly? Does she whine when she walks? Is she favoring or licking one toe more than usual?
Your dog could have broken her toe or toes in one paw. This article will show you how you can find out if this is your dog’s condition and what you can do for your pet.
What are broken toes?
Your dog has four toes on each of her feet. Each toe has three bones. The two toes in the middle bear most of your dog’s weight.
Sometimes, like humans, dogs can break their toes. If this happens to your dog, there will be a crack in her bone, which is also called a fracture. This crack may be as thin as a hair, or it may break two or more pieces of a bone.
A fracture may be an open or closed form. An open fracture (sometimes referred to as a compound fracture) indicates that the broken bone is exposed to your dog’s injury. This type may have a high risk of bacteria and dirt infection. There are no noticeable injuries in a closed fracture and the damage is all internally.
Whatever the size of the fracture may be, it can be excruciating for your dog. The crack should be healed properly or your dog could be limping for the rest of her life.
How does your dog break her toes?
There can be many ways that your dog could get her toes broken. It is not just a playful pooch who can get an accident. Here are the common ways that your dog could break her toes:
1. She gets her toes stepped on. Small breeds are highly susceptible to getting their paws accidentally stepped on. Since they’re little, the bones can fracture easily.
2. She lands wrongly. Your dog may enjoy jumping off sofas, stairs, tables, or other high spots. But she could land in the wrong way. Or she could land too hard and her paws might have too much force and she develops a fracture.
3. She’s stubbornly running hard and unable to pause, so she’s stubbing her toe against the sofa or table perhaps wall. Or you might inadvertently open the door and rub it against the foot of your dog
4. She stumbles and twists her toes. While running, she could stumble on an uneven path or a pebble. She could then twist her toe and fracture it.
5. After it’s stuck in something, she pulls her paw too much. Your dog may love to wriggle into things like clothes, rugs, brambles. All of these could catch her paw. If this happens, the natural reaction of your dog is to unstuck her paw. And your dog might sometimes strain her foot, leading to broken toes.
6. She finds herself in a car accident. Your dog might escape her leash and run into a car, no matter how hard you try. Or she might be so excited to welcome you home that when the door is opened, she runs out to kiss you. Only she to crashes into the car instead of you.
7. She fights with another dog and gets wounded. Dogs like to bite each other when they fight. Sometimes a bite on the paw could become too hard—hard enough to fracture.
8. She doesn’t get the necessary nutrients she needs. Like us, dogs require calcium. Your pet may not get enough calcium or other nutrients to keep her bones healthy.
What are the signs of broken toes?
Your dog may have a high pain tolerance. Also, she may have a unique way to tell you she doesn’t feel good. But some common signs of broken toes are visible. Check if the behavior of your dog is similar to the following:
1. She cries or whines in pain whenever she walks or when you hold her paw.
2. She limps a lot when she walks. This would become easily noticeable if your dog injured her middle or weight-bearing toes.
3. She holds up a paw to you even while she is resting. But she may not want you to touch the paw when you try to examine it.
4. She licks her paws a lot more than usual.
5. Her toe or her whole paw may look swollen.
6. She might look depressed and lose her appetite. Or she might become lethargic and might not want to move.
What do you do when your dog’s toes are broken?
If you suspect your dog has broken her toes, immediately bring her to the vet. Do this even if you think the injury is a minor one. It may also be possible to let the vet evaluate her to prevent further complications of the injury.
Open fractures require immediate veterinary care to prevent infections. Before you go to the veterinarian, you can perform first aid. Wrap over the open wound a clean gauze or towel and apply gentle pressure to stop the bleeding. Support the injured paw with towels. To prevent her from going into shock, wrap your dog in a towel.
A vet can immediately assess which toe is broken and how severe it is without the need for lab tests. But the best way to be certain that the toes are broken is to take an x-ray of the paw, which can only be done in a clinic. This is particularly true when a hairline fracture is a cause that is unpleasant but impossible to assess from feeling alone.
It’s also necessary to immediately bring her to the vet if you think she’s fractured her middle toes and hurt the bone on a joint layer. If she has a fracture in her weight-bearing toes, there could be a chance that she will become lame. If a joint surface is hurt, arthritis may develop, which may lead to long-term pain or even lameness.
The vet can perform additional diagnostic tests like radiographs and orthopedic exams. These exams will not take long.
How can your dog’s broken toes be treated?
Your vet will be able to determine the best way to treat your dog’s broken toes. The treatment will depend on how severe the injury is and if your dog is suffering from complications like infection.
The injured paw is most likely to be wrapped in a bandage. Unless you have some experience, don’t try to wrap the paw at home by yourself. You could bandage it too tightly which could restrict the flow of blood. The wound could get worse when blood flow is cut off and involves the whole body, not just the hand. Probably at home, you will need to redo the bandages. The wrap may get soiled or your dog may chew it off. Ask your vet for the best way to do this before you go home.
Sometimes a fracture will need a splint or a cast, especially if the broken toe is weight-bearing. This will keep the bone immobilized while it heals.
If the fracture is bad, the vet could perform surgery and keep the two parts of the bone together with pins, wires, screws, or metal plates. This will help knit the bone together.
The vet could also prescribe the necessary anti-inflammatory, antibiotics, and painkillers to help your dog while she heals.
Broken toes usually take at least four weeks for young puppies and six to eight weeks for older dogs to heal. But this period could be longer based on the following reasons:
1. The severity of the injury – a fracture in the hairline will heal faster than a bone broken down into two; if your dog undergoes surgery, it will also make a recovery a little harder and longer.
2. Your dog’s age – an older dog will take a longer time to heal than a younger dog.
3. Complications – If infection occurs, your dog’s condition may become more complicated, so it may take longer to heal than usual; if joints are affected, this additional injury would add to the healing period.
4. Home care – If you manage to restrict the activity of your dog when you bring her home and give her the right medicines, her healing time may be faster; but if she keeps walking, jumping, or running, it may take longer.
How do you help your dog heal at home?
You will need to limit the movements of your dog when you take her home so that her fractured toes will heal quickly. Activities such as leaping and walking are banned during this period. To limit the activities of your dog, you may need to install gates or pens. In her recovery period, you could also limit her to her kennel.
The dog can unexpectedly become violent towards you because of the pain. The toe in a wrap or cast may be chewed and snap. You may need to put a muzzle on her so she won’t bite everything and everyone.
Help her rest better by laying her on her good side. This will make sure that her body will support the injured paw. You can also use this position when you need to re-bandage her paw.
Remove the old bandages gently when you need to redo the wrap. Check if there is no hair dirt, blood, or pus in the cut. If you see any, use a pet-safe cleanser or cotton to wash them gently. If the injury seems to be tainted, take the dog to the vet. If it looks clean, follow your vet’s directions on how to best put a bandage around the broken toe of your pet.
Your dog might also need assistance to stand or use the toilet during her recovery period. You will need to be aware of her needs to help her.
Set several follow-up appointments with your vet. The best schedule is a weekly visit. But talk with your vet about this. An expert should monitor if the bone is healing properly.
You will still need to walk the pet during her recovery period. Exercise will help her bones not to stiffen up and her muscles not to shrink Massages might also help keep her the limber in her body. The veterinarian will also be able to give you feedback on what activities the dog will do best. The veterinarian will also be able to tell you how to get the dog back to its former level of activity safely and slowly.
How can you prevent your dog from breaking her toes?
No matter how much you take care of your dog, some accidents are unavoidable. But you can lessen the chances of your dog getting into an accident with the following tips:
1. Train your dog to follow the command “stay.” This is important if she is very frisky and loves running. Read this article for tips on training your dog to stay.
2. Keep your dog in your fenced yard until she is adequately trained.
3. Always keep your dog on a leash when you walk her outside.
4. Put thick rugs close to furniture from which she loves to jump. This will not prevent injuries that may happen. But it can provide your dog with a softer landing spot and may be cushioning.
5. Open doors carefully. Your dog might be lurking behind it.
As mentioned above, in spite of your best efforts to keep your dog safe, accidents can happen. Track your dog at all hours. Note any behavioral changes.
If she breaks one of her toes, the best thing you can do for her is to treat her injury immediately. In this way, she will heal properly as soon as possible.
Additionally, by restricting her movements, providing her medication, and taking care of her, your dedication to helping her recover from her injury can shorten her recovery time. You’ll need to stand firm no matter how much she wishes to run. She might not know why she is being constrained. But if you’re committed, your dog will soon return to her healthy, normal self.