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A Broken Toe is Actually Unusual

August 14, 2011

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Angel’s Foot Hurt

A precious 3-year-old female spayed Beagle mix doggy smiled up at Doc Truli.  Her right front paw was covered with a pink 100% natural cotton baby sock held on by sports tape.  Not bad for an amateur job.

Doc carefully removed the bandage, but started the examination with Angel’s body.

“A thorough evaluation begins with a full-body examination,” says Doc Truli.  Many leg and paw pains are actually symptoms of a systemic problem.  Like Lyme disease, like autoimmune disease, like infections, like lymphoma.  Rare, but systemic problems.  “Not only can a diagnosis be made from a full physical examination, but you want your dog’s whole health situation assessed, not just guessed,” says Doc Truli.

Angel’s physical, aside from a small amount of dental tartar that we would deal with another day, was looking good.  Then Doc picked up the “good” paw.

“It’s the right one,” said Angel’s mom.  Most pet parents get nervous at this point, thinking maybe the doctor did not pay attention to their dog and is examining the wrong paw.  On the contrary, an astute veterinarian knows that many dogs are ticklish.

Ticklish Dog Feet?

“Ticklish dog feet is not a  line item in a veterinary textbook,” says Doc Truli,”but it makes sense.  Everyone thinks their dog doesn’t like the feet touched because of a quicked nail in the past, or because the dog is ‘sensitive.’  There are many excuses and theories.  So my theory is – why not ticklish?  How many people do you know who punch anything near them if you sneak up and tickle them?  They don’t laugh, they react violently.  So why not our pets?”

Examine a So-Called “Normal” Body Part First (There’re 2 of Most of Them!)

Doc Truli examined Angel’s LEFT front paw in order to judge Angel’s reaction to the paws being touched.  If she pulled away, or licked or mouth the Doc, it would not be interpreted as a sign of pain because that paw was supposed to be normal.  A large part of a dog’s examination is inter-species and inter-individual interpretation.  Examine a “good” part before you examine a sore part!

Be Brisk, Decisive & Efficient

If you linger too long or keep prodding a paw, eventually you will elicit an emotional reaction that has nothing to do with injury and everything to do with annoyance.  Plus, the neurotransmitters release their chemical signals and change over time.  You need to pay attention and observe fresh, naive reactions.

Angel did not mind her left front paw being poked, flexed and prodded.  Her right front hurt a lot.  As soon as the paw was touched, she pulled away and flinched.  She’s an excellent, sweet, calm dog, and that sort of immediate reaction, combined with a visual comparison with the left front paw that showed the right front was visibly swollen, resulted in the recommendation for an X-Ray.

Paw X-Ray Shows the Break

P5 mid-tarsal traverse fracture

Doggy toe fracture X-Ray

X-Ray Diagnosis Saves Money in the Long Run

Angel was lucky.  The middle 2 long toes are the weight-bearing toes of the foot.  If they fracture, they often need splinting and bandage care and bandage changes every few days.  If the side toes are fractured, they benefit from stabilization, but if someone does not have the money for extensive splints, they probably will heal.  Investing in the x-ray lets you know how extensive your care needs to be.

Angel’s mom selected a soft splint style cast with some anti-inflammatory pain control medication.  After 6 weeks, Angel made a full recovery.  To save money, mom declined the post-treatment x-rays to prove if the fracture had healed properly.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Businesscards_jinaiji permalink
    February 20, 2012 10:09 am

    Oh, My Great Dane has something alike to it… I will do x ray this Thursday I hope it isn’t too late :((((( Thank you for your post….

    • February 26, 2012 12:12 pm

      How is your Dane?

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