One of the most common injuries reported in dogs is broken toes. These types of injuries can happen anywhere and at any time and can sometimes prove very tricky to detect. And once you know about the injury, what do you do if your dog has a broken toe?
In this short guide, I hope to explain how you treat a dog’s broken toe, and how to even find out if there’s a break in the first place.
How do you treat a dog’s broken toe?
How you treat a dog’s broken toe is often down to how small dog toes are, as other injuries involving the legs are easier to spot because of their size.
Thankfully, broken toes in dogs are often less serious than other types of fractures (such as those found in the legs or ankles) and are easier to deal with for both vets and owners.
Despite this, any injury to your dog should still be a cause for concern. Although less serious than other injuries, broken toes are still very painful for canines.
Also, undetected broken toes can sometimes lead to further complications if left untreated. However, as mentioned before, it can sometimes take a practiced eye to realize that your dog has broken their toes.
Thankfully, in this article, I will explain the signs you should look out for to safely diagnose a broken toe in your dog.
As well as the steps you should take to help them to recover. Hopefully, with this knowledge in hand, you will be better equipped to deal with the possibility of your beloved pooch hurting themselves in this way.
How do you know if your dog’s paw is broken? (Broken toe signs)
All dogs are different, that goes without saying. Some have high pain tolerances, whilst others do not. Therefore, it can sometimes be hard to tell when your dog is injured, especially if it comes from a hardy breed.
Similar to this, dogs can at times show signs of pain in uniquely different ways compared to other pets in the family or household.
For example, some dogs may become shy and elusive when they are in pain, whilst others do the opposite and become very needy, looking for constant comfort from their owners.
If you notice these kinds of behaviors in your dog, even without any obvious signs of injury, you should still make sure to discuss your concerns with your vet. Some dogs are very good at hiding smaller injuries, and you may only realize something is wrong when they start acting out of character.
Despite these differences in behaviors, there are several things you should look out for if you suspect your dog has broken a toe.
For example, most dogs will limp when they have injured the area around their paws, and this will be particularly noticeable if they have broken their middle or weight-bearing toes.
Similarly, depending on the severity of the fracture, they may even become lame, refusing to walk on the affected paw at all.
Another symptom is swelling. Although swelling isn’t the easiest to notice, especially if subtle, you should make sure to examine your dog’s paws for signs of this if you suspect something is wrong.
However, before you do this, you should first ensure that your dog is comfortable with you touching their paw. Whilst it rarely happens, certain dogs can become more aggressive compared to normal when they are injured. This is often true even for the most placid of dogs and can be a major indicator that something is amiss.
If your dog is fine with you touching its leg and paw, you should do so gently, looking for any signs of swelling.
If you are finding it difficult to tell whether it is swollen, you should compare the injured toe to your dog’s toes on its uninjured paw. With severe breaks, the swelling will often be very noticeable, and it will not take you very long to figure out that something is wrong.
However, this is not the easiest thing to see in long-haired breeds.
If your dog begins to whine or cry or show any other signs of distress whilst you examine its paw, you should stop immediately. You must not aggravate the injured area, as this could lead to further damage.
Likewise, if you can get a good look at your dog’s paw without touching it, then you should take this action instead.
A good tip would be to wait until your dog is asleep, giving you the chance to examine the injured area closely without disturbing them.
You might also notice your dog licking its paw if the toes are injured. Dogs will do this to try and relieve the pain whilst comforting themselves. However, this can further worsen the injury if the dog is constantly licking and worrying at it.
Lastly, as previously mentioned, changes in behavior can also indicate that your dog is in pain. Some dogs will completely lose their appetite after an injury, refusing to eat any meals you have prepared for them. Similarly, they may also become depressed and lethargic if the injury has not been properly treated and is still causing them discomfort.
What should you do if your dog has broken a toe?
If you have concluded that your dog has broken its toe or has had a similar type of injury, you should take them to the vet as soon as possible. You should do this even if you think it is not serious, as the vet will be far more qualified to accurately diagnose the seriousness of the injury.
Unlike a broken leg, transporting a dog with a broken toe to the vet is often a lot easier. However, you may find that you will have to pick your dog up if you need to place them in the car. This will especially be true if they have only just recently injured themselves, as they will be reluctant to put weight on their paw, sometimes refusing to move at all.
Additionally, lifting them into the car will help to avoid any further damage that might be caused by them trying to get in themselves. Furthermore, it might be beneficial to lay down blankets on the seats, especially if the injury is particularly sensitive. This will stop any possibility of further damage to the toe from hard surfaces in the vehicle.
If the toe is an open fracture, you may have to perform first aid immediately before doing anything else (open fractures are particularly nasty breaks that are categorized by the bone pushing out through the skin).
Do this by wrapping the wound with either a clean towel or gauze and apply gentle pressure to stop any bleeding – to prevent your dog from going into shock you could also wrap them in a blanket.
What can cause a dog to break its toes?
Dogs can sustain a broken toe or multiple broken toes through various mishaps and accidents. For example, smaller breeds of dogs are particularly at risk due to their diminutive size and can easily be stepped on due to clumsiness.
These types of dogs are more delicate when it comes to their larger cousins, and as such, are more likely to sustain fractures to their toes. However, this does not mean that larger dogs are not susceptible to this as well.
Additionally, large falls and misjudged jumps can also lead to broken toes. Larger and more active dogs commonly overestimate their abilities, jumping from balconies, staircases, and small cliffs leading to injuries to their legs or paws.
If you have a dog who is prone to risky feats such as these, you should take precautions to stop them from hurting themselves (keeping them on a lead in dangerous areas outside and making sure they are not left to their own devices at home).
Dogs can also break their toes if they lack the correct amount of calcium in their bodies. Commonly, this is often caused by malnourishment or improper diets and can lead to a lack of bone density.
This condition stops dogs from being able to prevent fractures when jumping or landing on their feet. If you suspect your dog is not getting the correct diet to ensure it has healthy bones, you should talk to your vet regarding dietary requirements.
Lastly, dogs can sustain broken toes from accidents caused by vehicles or bikes, as well as accidentally getting their paws stuck in various areas.
The latter often happens when they attempt to wiggle through small gaps, or when they get their paws caught in things such as thick fabric or floorboards in the home. To minimize the risk of this happening you should undertake an inventory of your house and fix areas in which your pup might be at risk of injury.
Unfortunately, leg injuries are pretty common for dogs, as are broken bones. Although it might be scary for you to think about, the chances are you will have to deal with a leg injury at some point in your dog’s life.
We all want to keep our dogs safe, but with active and energetic canines it’s not always possible. Instead, we should prepare ourselves for the possibility that they may hurt themselves in the near future.
The bottom line is this; if your dog has a broken toe, the thing to do is to go to a vet for expert advice.