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4-Year-Old Doberman Pinscher Toe Run Over by S.U.V.

March 26, 2011

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What Would You Do If You Rolled Over Your Dog’s Paw?

Malcolm, the 4-year-old black and tan Doberman Pinscher limped into the animal hospital, blood dripping over the floor everywhere he stepped.  20 minutes before, Malcolm was resting in his driveway in an invisible blind spot behind the sports utility vehicle’s back tire.  His mom backed the tire over his foot.

“All I heard was howling and I slammed on the brakes.  I ran around the back of the SUV, and there he was, with his leg out at this awful angle, stuck under the tire.  I didn’t know what to do, so I got back in and pulled forward to get the tire off of his foot.  He didn’t get up at all,” said the Dobie’s mom, “I feel sick about it.  Is he going to be all right?”

Malcolm’s left hind paw was bleeding profusely.  After some painkillers and a sedative, a small tourniquet, some x-rays and some careful looking, Doc Truli could tell what was going on.  The outside 4th toe on the left hind foot was ripped away from the foot, just hanging by some skin.  The bone was cut in half lengthwise, like a dissection sample in medical school – only this was real life.

Side view of paw after accident, outside toe ripped off completely and 3rd toe ligaments torn

Doberman's hind paw with missing 4th side toe and ripped 3rd toe that needed reconstructive surgery. The surgery is underway and some surgical staples are glinting metal.

Inventory of the SUV Paw Damage

The 3rd toe was hanging at a strange angle.  It was floppy and lightweight.  The ligaments to the 3rd toe were ripped and the little bones at the base of the toe were broken on about 4 pieces.  The skin on the outside of the left hind paw was pulled back and away in an area about 5 inches long and 4 inches wide, quite big on a small dog paw.

“The toes in a cat or dog are numbered starting at the medial, or inside (by the “thumbs”) toward the outside.  The cat and dog normally have 5 front toes and 4 hind toes.  The middle toes are the biggest and the weight-bearing toes.  They should be preserved over the other toes if a difficult choice needs to be made,” says Doc Truli.

We wanted to save the 3rd toe if possible because the 2nd and 3rd – the two middle toes on the dog’s hind foot – are the weight-bearing toes.  He might not limp if he had only 1 hind toe to bear weight, but two toes would be better to prevent arthritis and disability down the road.

However the car tire and the driveway made saving the 3rd toe an unknown challenge.  Road dirt and tarmac were ground into the wound.  If a bone became infected – called osteomyelitis– he would need another surrey to remove the toe.  Sometimes osteomyelitis spreads and someone could lose a whole foot, or worse, become septic with a systemic infection and lose their life.

Surgical Correction Succeeds

Doberman's hind paw 6 weeks after the accident, 3 toes, instead of four, but are healed and bearing full weight!

Doberman's hind paw with 3 good toes 6 weeks after a car rolled over the fourth toe and ripped it in half!

Surgery proceeded to save the toe and hopefully, prevent infection from setting into the bone.

Malcolm took his antibiotics and painkillers, refused to keep a bandage on the paw, and healed anyway.  He did not, however, play in mud puddles or go swimming for 4 weeks while the foot healed!

Here you can see one tiny red spot of epithelialization (when the skin has stretched as far as it will go and the new thin layer of skin cells finishes the wound closure).  Otherwise, his 3-toed paw is perfect.   What a lucky dog!

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