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How important is a toe?  When it comes to our pets, it all depends on which one you’re talking about.  It doesn’t take much to bust a toe, but it can take a lot to heal it back up!  Just ask a poor English Setter named Gamma!  She broke her toe- badly- and it never healed quite right.  At Southeast Veterinary Specialists, Dr. Rose Lemarie says she recommends surgery for cases like Gamma, even though pet owners might think she’s crazy!

“It’s so this won’t happen, because if you don’t do surgery and it just heals as a big kind of glob of bone there, it’s just persistently painful.”  And Dr. Lemarie says casting is not a surefire fix.  “It’s not so much that it didn’t heal or you couldn’t cast it.  You can do all of those things and you can get toe fractures to heal, but if they don’t heal well, then they hurt.”

Since Gamma’s toe never healed properly, after being treated by a referring veterinarian, Dr. Lemarie now has to remove it!  She says toe amputation is more common than you might think.  “If you look at digit two and five, they’re off the ground, so when a dog walks, they walk on their third and their fourth digits.  That’s the weight bearing digit.”  Removing the first, second or fifth toes hardly make a difference.  In extreme cases like Gamma’s, even the third or fourth toes can be removed.

That’s exactly what Dr. Lemarie does, amputating the third digit up to the metacarpal phalangeal joint.  “And the reason why is because of soft tissue coverage for closure.  We did not have to go up this high for boney reasons, but it just makes the closure prettier.”  However, it’s not pretty yet!  While Gamma’s paw looks more like a chicken foot for now, doc says the rambunctious pup will be healed up and feeling better in just a matter of weeks!