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Phalangeal fractures in the dog

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What are the phalanges?

The phalanges are the bones that make up the toes of the dog. They connect to each metacarpal/metatarsal bone and form the digits of the foot. In all except the first digit (the equivalent of the thumb where there are two bones), there are three phalanges per toe: the proximal phalanx connects to the metatarsus/metacarpus, the middle phalanx lies in between the proximal and distal phalanges, and the distal phalanx, to which the claw is attached.

Signs of a Phalangeal fracture

The most common signs of a fracture of a phalanx include: sudden swelling on the paw, reluctance to bear weight on the paw and pain when it is palpated.

Diagnosis of a phalangeal fracture

In order to properly diagnose a fracture, the veterinary surgeon may need to sedate your dog in order to take X-rays and assess the extent of the fracture.

Treatment of a phalangeal fracture

Phalangeal fractures can be treated non-surgically or surgically, depending on the degree of fracture present. Non-surgical management is often successful, with external supports only sometimes being necessary for 2 weeks. In some instances, external supports such as splints may not be needed as the swelling present on the foot protects the broken bone whilst it is healing. In these cases strict rest in a room or cage is advisable.

Surgery may be needed if there is a severely broken bone or the toe has become out of line with the rest of the foot. An external skeletal fixator may be used in larger breeds of dogs. Screw fixation can also be used in some performance animal where accurate reconstruction is desirable.

If there is a lot of trauma to the paw and the phalanges then surgical removal of the affected bones may be necessary. Digit amputation can be considered in severe, chronic or non-healing fractures.

Post-operative management

If surgery is performed on your dog it will need regular check-ups to ensure that the bone is healing. Sedation and x-rays will be needed in order to evaluate the healing process. If an external skeletal fixator is applied this will require removal once adequate healing is confirmed.


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