First Aid for a Pet’s Foot Injury

Leg and foot injuries are among the most common traumatic injuries in pets and proper first aid can help prevent further damage until you can get to the vet.

Foot injuries are among the most common traumatic injuries suffered by pets, and understanding how to identify the type of injury and how to administer first aid following an injury can lead to a smooth, quick recovery.

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“In a good percentage of foot and leg injuries, additional damage occurs after the actual trauma. And this makes treatment and recovery longer and more complex, so avoiding further injury is key,” explained Dr. Michael Levine, DVM.

Many pet owners mistakenly believe that it takes a significant accident or amount of force to result in a foot injury, but normal activities like running, jumping and playing can result in serious injuries like fractures, broken toe nails, and puncture wounds.

First Aid for a Pet's

At the first sign of a foot injury, the first step is to visually assess the injury. Begin the exam by looking at the toenails for any breakage or cracks. A broken or cracked toenail can cause excruciating pain and significant bleeding, and in many cases, it’s necessary to put the animal under anesthesia to de-shell or trim back the damaged portion of nail to allow for proper healing.

If a toenail appears to be cracked or broken, trimming the toenail back slightly can help alleviate pain, particularly if the pet is in need of a nail clipping. This will help limit the damaged nail's contact with the ground while walking. Clip only the portion of nail beyond the quick, but keep in mind that the actual clipping will cause slight movement that will be momentarily painful, so muzzling may be necessary in pets who are prone to nipping.

Bleeding can be stopped with styptic powder. Corn starch or even flour can be used in the absence of styptic powder.

To help prevent infection, follow routine paw injury cleaning and disinfecting procedures and wrap the foot with rolled gauze and a self-adhering bandage to prevent contamination and to limit movement of the broken nail.

If the toenails appear to be okay, the next step is to check the foot and toes. Begin by visually examining the toes and paw pad. If all appears to be in order in terms of alignment, gently manipulate each toe, watching for any signs of pain or discomfort.

If the toes are not aligned normally, do not try to manipulate the foot or toes. Instead, splint the toes by wrapping the foot and ankle with several layers of gauze. If a fracture, dislocation or other serious injury is suspected, splinting the foot and ankle will help stabilize the toes, limiting movement that can potentially worsen the injury.

Also check between the toes and around the pads of the feet, as it’s not uncommon for splinters, glass and other sharp objects to become embedded in the foot.

If an object is found embedded in the foot, tweezers can be utilized to remove the object after softening the skin in a foot bath. Follow with routine paw pad injury procedures until a vet can examine the injury.

Following a fracture or other injury to the foot, swelling is to be expected. To help reduce swelling and pain, apply ice compresses to the foot area for 20 minute periods, several times a day. In the case of a broken or cracked nail, avoid applying ice directly to the injury site, as changes in temperature can be painful.

Cage rest, along with preventing running and jumping is also vital to recovery.

In the case of a foot or leg injury, a prompt visit to the vet is important to avoid further injury and pain. Following proper first-aid procedures can help decrease pain and promote healing in an injured pet.

​Splinting a Pet's Injured Limb


How to Immobilize a Broken Bone or Other Serious Injury

Broken bones and torn ligaments are among the most common traumatic injuries seen at the veterinary clinic, and understanding how to quickly and efficiently splint an injured leg or tail can mean the difference between further injury and a quick recovery.


Why Use a Splint ?

Splinting a suspected fracture or other serious injury can help prevent further damage to muscles, blood vessels, tendons and ligaments.


Why Use a Splint ?

Splinting a suspected fracture or other serious injury can help prevent further damage to muscles, blood vessels, tendons and ligaments.

Splints serve to immobilize an injury site. In the case of a broken bone, this can prevent additional fractures from occurring. Sharp bone edges at a fracture site can easily sever surrounding structures, like blood vessels, tendons, ligaments and muscles, so minimizing movement lessens the chance of additional damage.

In the case of other injuries, such as a torn ligament, splinting can prevent a partial tear from becoming a complete tear, which is more painful and more difficult to repair.

Additionally, a limb that is dangling and moving in an irregular manner is going to be painful, so splinting will limit movement, and therefore help ease some of the pain.


When to Splint ?

“When in doubt, it’s better to take a couple minutes to splint an injury before going to the veterinarian’s office,” explained Dr. Michael Levine, DVM. “Immobilizing the limb for the period of the time it takes you to get to the emergency clinic is not likely to do any harm. There’s increased risks associated with wearing a splint long term – a full leg splint puts a patient at higher risk of hip and pelvic fractures. But in the short term, it’s much riskier to leave an injury without a splint because movement at a fracture site can result in an exponentially worse prognosis.”

Splinting can be beneficial in the case of a suspected fracture or other serious injury. Symptoms can include irregular “dangling” movement below the injury site, severe bruising and swelling, and pain to the extent that an animal is limping and non-weight bearing on a limb.


How to Splint ?

Before splinting, it’s important to understand that even the most docile, affectionate pet may lash out in an aggressive manner when he/she is experiencing serious pain. For this reason, muzzling is recommended. In the absence of a traditional muzzle, a strip of fabric or tape wrapped around the snout can impair a pet’s ability to nip. The exception is when there is difficulty breathing or other facial trauma involving the nose or snout; in these cases, a muzzle may impair breathing. In situations where a muzzle cannot be utilized, a towel placed over the face can help to avoid injury to the individual providing first aid.

An array of household objects can be utilized as splints. A newspaper or magazine can be wrapped around a section of leg or tail to prevent movement. A ruler or pen can serve as a splint for a medium or small animal, And a couple of wire coat hangers can be straightened, wound together, and bent to match the shape of a limb.

When splinting, it’s important not to re-align the injury site, as this can cause additional damage to nearby structures like muscles, tendons and ligaments. Re-aligning an injury can even prove deadly if a main artery is severed during the re-alignment.

Using rolled gauze, tape or strips of fabric, wrap both the splint and the injured limb or tail. The splint should extend well beyond the injury and in the case of a leg, the splint must extend one joint below and one joint above the injury site.

In the case of a toe or lower jaw, surrounding body parts can serve to splint an injury. In the case of an injured toe, wrap the entire foot, as the adjacent toes will limit movement. In the case of an injured lower jaw, wrap the entire head, as this will stabilize the injured lower mandible with the upper jaw.

In many cases, an animal who has suffered a broken bone or other serious injury may also have lacerations, gashes or cuts in the immediate area. If this is the case, bandage the area prior to splinting.

Dennis P. Baughman

Dennis P. Baughman is the Editor of UnbeatenRolling. His disabilities couldn't stop him to be self driven person. He started this blog to share his personal knowledge about all kinds of wheelchairs and different tips and advice about chairs.

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