Foot Injuries and Toe Trauma

From agility to field trials, herding to sled-dog racing, every canine athlete is prone to foot and toe injuries. Foot pads can become worn down (a common problem in herding dogs). Feet can get cut, and paw pads can become dry and cracked from overuse or exposure to cold. A toe injury might sound trivial, but it can be serious enough to lead to a dog's retirement from a sport. Retrievers and agility dogs are especially prone to toe injuries, which can range from a torn-off toenail to a sprained, dislocated, or broken toe. Dogs can get toe injuries from hitting the toe too hard against something, stepping in a hole, or landing wrong from a jump. Many agility dogs suffer toe injuries from A-frame slats.

To prevent broken toenails, keep your dog's nails trimmed short. If a toenail does tear off, all the bleeding may look scary, but it's not as serious as it seems. Just put pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding. If the nail doesn't break off on its own, your veterinarian may have to remove it. The toenail should eventually grow back.

To treat minor cuts, clean out the wound and bandage the foot. Give it time to heal before your dog returns to his activity. Keep dry, cracked paw pads well moisturized, and clean your dog's feet after he's been out in snowy or icy conditions. This helps remove harsh deicing chemicals that may be on sidewalks or roads. Toes may heal on their own but sometimes require surgery. An X ray may be necessary to spot hairline fractures.

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