Yes, dogs suffer broken toes and paw pad injuries. Stubbing is not just for humans, but pets can also stub and stumble, and end up with broken toes.
Just like humans, animals can break bones. And while it’s less common for a domesticated animal to suffer from physical energy as they spend more time in a routinely run, controlled environment, such as the typical family household, it still can and does occur.
As descendants of wolves, dogs are extremely social and active animals. Any dog owner will tell you how much their hound loves to howl, how much their terrier loves to dig, how much their border collie loves to play, or how much their whippet loves to run.
During all this activity, injuries can sometimes occur and the probability of such only heightens the more active the dog is.
It’s not difficult to imagine a scenario in which you and your furry friend are enjoying an activity outdoors. Maybe it’s fetch, maybe it’s a hike during a weekend camping trip, or maybe simply a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood. No matter the activity, toe bone fractures can happen in a variety of ways, some of which include:
- Run in with a car
- Severe stubbing
- Jamming in between rocks, boards,
- Tripping while running
- Being stepped on
- Being dropped or falling from a height (common in smaller breeds and/or puppies)
- Weak or not fully-developed bones (common in both puppies and senior dogs)
Symptoms of a broken toe in dogs
Different dog breeds will have their own unique paws. While Labradors Retrievers have webbed feet to help them enjoy a swim or retrieve waterfowl for their hunting partner, sighthounds such as Greyhounds and Whippets have feet comparable to rabbits, which helps them gain traction and run at the speeds their famed for.
No matter the differences, all dog breeds can experience a broken toe within their lifetime. If you’re worried or wondering whether or not your pet could be experiencing the discomfort of a broken toe, look for these symptoms:
- Lethargy (could be a disinterest in anything from eating to going on a walk)
- Frequent gnawing, biting, licking of the paw(s)
- Whining from pain
- Stress panting (not panting from heat)
- Reluctance to be touched
In order to properly treat a bone fracture, it’s important to know what kind of fracture you’re dealing with.
The easiest and most efficient way to do this is to request an x-ray and examination from your local vet’s office. It’s then that you will learn what is ailing your pet, which could be any of the following types of fractures:
- Displaced fracture
A bone breaks into one or more pieces and no longer lines up in the proper format.
- Non-displaced fracture
A bone breaks in one piece or partially and remains lined up in its original position.
- Open fracture
The bone breaks or snaps in such a way that it ruptures through the skin, causing an open wound.
- Closed fracture
Despite the hard calcium of the bone fracturing, it does not tear through the skin or cause an open wound.
You should also understand the intricacies of your dog’s paws before attempting to treat issues or administer post-operative care yourself. While there are many differences between human and canine anatomy, and an important one to note here is how we differ in getting around.
Dogs actually walk on their toes and not the soles of their paws. Additional information that’s helpful for you to know concerns weight bearing and non-weight bearing toes.
Your pet’s paw has four claws or toes. Not surprisingly, the two center toes are the ones that give Fido the most center of gravity. This means that injury in either of these is likely to result in more noticeable limping or discomfort, while injury to the outer two may be harder to notice.
If your ability to get to a vet’s office is hindered or you truly believe your pet is not in serious pain, you can treat a dog’s broken toe at home by following some simple instructions.
However, the professional opinion of a veterinarian is recommended. Without the correct diagnosis, your dog could easily be suffering from something more severe than a small toe fracture. A deep bacterial infection can easily manifest as a wound or an injured toe.
Home care: what to do for your dog at home
The typical healing period for a fractured toe is six to eight weeks. This timeline is typically for post-operative care when the toe fracture requires surgery.
During this time, you will become a self-taught veterinarian to your ailing pup, doing everything from administering pain, antibacterial, and/or anti-inflammatory medications, helping them get around, keeping them comfortable, cleaning their bandages, changing their bandages, and setting splints in their proper place.
Some rearranging of your usual routine or even furniture may be needed, as well. It’s likely the combination of splinting and soreness from the injury and/or surgery will enable your canine family-member from jumping up on the couch or onto their favorite chair by the window.
To ensure that they feel safe and comfortable, introduce them to a comfy dog bed or crate, or help them get to hard to reach spots by gently picking them up.
Despite your dog’s desire to run and play, you should try to avoid overexciting your pet with the promise or a walk or the baiting with a toy.
Bed rest is what best heals broken bones. You can even ask your veterinarian for a small-dosing sedative or a natural calming oil to help with easily-excitable breeds.
Monitor your dog’s behavior in the coming weeks, watching out for any warning signs. If at any point your dog stops eating, the injured paw becomes inflamed, or limping increases, call your veterinarian.
How to splint a broken toe on a dog’s paw
Perhaps the most important item your doggo will need for proper healing is a splint. A splint is comparable to a cast but is made of a more hardened material and can be more easily removed and put back on.
Some materials you will need:
- Padding (cotton pads work well)
- Adhesive wrap
- Medical or athletic tape
- Splint mechanism (provided by the veterinarian)
- Gloves (to avoid infection)
A few tips to note when attaching a splint:
You want the bandage and splint to have the correct amount of tension. That means it shouldn’t be too tight nor too loose.
A splint that’s wrapped too tightly can decrease circulation which is not only uncomfortable for the animal, it also impedes the healing process.
A splint that’s not wrapped tightly enough can more easily fall from its position, losing its ability to protect the injured area and promote proper healing of the fracture.
- Size of splint
Splinting the whole leg, while it seems overwhelming, actually keeps the dog from easily gnawing and ripping off the splint.
- Importance of cushioning
Cotton balls or makeup remover pads work great for adding extra cushion to the splint, which keeps your dog comfortable but also protects them from blisters and ensures the healing process continues.
Extra cushioning also helps with shock absorption, further ensuring that the injury does not worsen.
The splint should be sandwiched between gauze and cotton padding and adhesive wrap, all of which work together to keep the mechanism in its proper place.
How to bandage the fractured digit
Using the materials listed above, follow these steps when dressing your pet’s injured paw:
- Get them to a relaxed state by petting them and speaking to them soothingly
- Gently extend the limb that has its injured toe and begin wrapping it with gauze
- Wrapped with gauze two to three times around and cut with scissors when done
- Place tape at the top and bottom of gauze to keep the bandage in place
In addition to an antibacterial medication, your vet may prescribe or recommend an antibacterial soap and/or topical ointment.
Every time you bandage or re-bandage your pooch’s paw, you should clean it with an antibacterial soap or shampoo designed for dogs, tenderly pat dry, then apply the topical ointment. Be sure to end the bandage at the back of the leg so it’s more difficult for your dog to find or chew at, in attempts to get it off.
Another tip is to attach any type of adhesive wrap at the top and bottom of the bandage to discourage unraveling.
How much does it cost to treat a broken toe?
Between $800 and $2,000.
When it comes to the well-being of our canine companions, the price point isn’t always an option.
While broken toes are not necessarily serious injuries, if gone untreated, they can lead to arthritis, infection, and even depression in the dog.
The longer you put off a visit to the vet, not only does the case of the phalangeal fracture worsen, the potential costs for treatment increase. A scheduled appointment to the vet typically costs significantly less than a last-minute emergency visit will.
Furthermore, undiagnosed and untreated bone issues can lead to infection. To stop the spreading of deteriorating and potentially fatal infection, amputation will be required, which can cost thousands of dollars.
When you do visit your local vet, in order to give your dog the best possible care and proper diagnosis, x-rays will be ordered by your veterinarian if they suspect a toe fracture.
In addition to x-rays, bloodwork may be requested as a preventative measure to ensure no other internal issues are occurring. After the initial examination, x-rays, and bloodwork confirm a broken toe, the vet will discuss the treatment process with you.
For non-displaced fractures, especially when occurring in younger dogs, all that may be needed is some well-placed bone plating and splints to ensure the bone heals properly.
For displaced fractures, however, surgery will be required. Unlike, an ankle sprang, fractured bones are unable to properly heal themselves. Surgery may involve anesthesia to keep the dog calm and pain-free as well as the veterinarian and their staff safe and focused during the procedure.
The administration of anesthesia can cost an additional $300 to $500 on top of the cost of the surgical procedure. In most cases, your dog will be free to go home with you after the surgery, meaning you won’t have to pay for an overnight stay.
However, if complications occur during the procedure or the toe is in a serious condition, expect to pay extra as the veterinarian team surveys the animal throughout the night to ensure proper healing and no further complications.
While some pet owners opt to splint the toe themselves, others may feel more comfortable with a veterinary professional undertaking the task, which may cost around $50 to $70.
Before leaving the office, post-procedure care may include medication prescriptions to help moderate pain and prevent infection as well as an Elizabethan collar to keep the dog from licking or biting at the wound. All in all, you can expect to pay anywhere from $800 to $2,000 in total for the proper diagnosis, care, and healing of a bone fracture.