Dogs, like people, sometimes break their toes. Broken toes may not be as visible as broken bones in other parts of the body, but there are still steps that dog owners must take to ensure that a broken toe heals correctly.
What is a Broken Toe?
A fracture is another term for a fractured bone. A fracture can be as little as a hairline crack in the bone or as severe as a complete break in which one bone is split in two. Fractures, especially in toes, are painful regardless of the size of the bone.
How Do Dogs Break Toes?
There are a number of ways dogs can break a toe. Some common reasons include the following.
- Getting stepped on: This reason is especially true for smaller breeds of dogs that may get caught up in the legs of a person. Little dogs sometimes accidentally get stepped on by their owners and since toes are such small bones, they can easily fracture.
- Jumping off of something: For larger dogs, jumping off of a high surface such as a balcony, deck, or staircase can cause a toe to break. The amount of force that is placed on the toes at landing is too much for some bones to bear.
- Getting stuck in something: Occasionally a dog will try to wiggle through a fence or get its foot stuck in something like a rug, loose threads on a blanket, or wooden deck boards. It will try to pull itself free which can result in a broken toe.
- Car accidents: A common cause of broken toes and other bones, car accidents can result in a lot of trauma to a dog. Sometimes the dog is inside the car and other times the car hits the dog while the dog is outside but regardless of how the accident occurs, fractured toes may happen.
- Bite wounds: When they may grab at each other's appendages with their teeth. If another animal bites a dog's foot hard enough it might break that dog's toe.
- Poor nutrition: If a dog is malnourished it may not have the proper bone density to support its weight. Broken toes often result in these dogs that aren't receiving enough calcium. Simply hopping off of the couch can cause some malnourished dogs to break toes or other bones. This most commonly occurs in dogs that are eating simple homemade diets that lack essential nutrients instead of such as those from the pet store.
When placing pressure on the broken toe or if someone touches it, dogs with broken toes may whimper or whine to show that they are in discomfort. Even at repose, they will usually limp or hold up the paw with a fractured toe. In long-haired dogs, the toe or entire paw may seem enlarged, however this might be difficult to notice. Finally, a dog may seek to reduce discomfort by licking the damaged toe.
Diagnosing a Broken Toe in a Dog
A veterinarian will take X-rays to identify a fractured toe in a dog if the owner feels it is broken. They may also examine the foot to determine which toe is fractured. Because X-rays of the foot are usually rapid and painless, a diagnosis may usually be made in a matter of minutes.
Treating a Broken Toe in a Dog
A splint or cast may be used to keep the broken toe in the foot isolated until it heals, depending on which toe is fractured. Surgery to implant a pin in the shattered bone may be required in rare cases. Pain and anti-inflammatory drugs are commonly provided to assist a dog with a broken toe feel better, and antibiotics may be required to treat an infection if there is a wound connected with the fracture.
Limitations for Dogs with Broken Toes
To assist a dog with a broken toe heal as fast as possible, activity limits will be required. Running and leaping should be avoided, since they may cause the bone to fail to mend properly. To restrict a dog with a broken toe from climbing the stairs or leaping on and off of furniture, baby gates and exercise pens may be required.
How Long Does it Take a Broken Toe to Heal?
A bone normally takes one month to mend, but it might take considerably longer depending on the type of break, the dog's age, the presence of infection, and how carefully activity limitations are followed at home.