Digit Amputation in Dogs

Written By hannah hollinger
Published: 04/07/2017Updated: 01/20/2022
Veterinary reviewed by Michele K.
Digit Amputation in Dogs - Conditions Treated, Procedure, Efficacy, Recovery, Cost, Considerations, Prevention
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What is Digit Amputation?

Digit amputation in dogs is an invasive surgical procedure involving the complete removal of the canine’s digit, also called the toe. An amputation will involve cuts made through skin, muscles, nerves, and bone.

Removal of the dewclaw (comparable to the thumb in humans) to prevent injury in hunting and working dogs is a form of digit amputation, as are declawing procedures (which are uncommon in dogs). Conditions that require digit amputation are usually limited to some form of malignant or benign tumor.

Digit Amputation Procedure in Dogs

Prior to amputating the digit, the surgeon will clip and prepare the site for aseptic surgery. The limb of the affected digit will likely have a tourniquet placed to cut off the readily available blood supply circulating to the paw and digits. Once the surgical site is created, the surgeon will proceed to conducting the amputation. 

A generous incision will be created to prevent closing tension later in the procedure. Any excessive skin created by this mass incision will be trimmed during the time of wound closing.

Throughout the surgical procedure, a good visualization will be made in reference to bleeding control. All major arteries and veins are doubled ligated to prevent mass hemorrhaging postoperatively. A scalpel blade will be used to cut the muscle of the digit, but only the necessary muscle tissue. If the canine is affected by a digit tumor, some healthy tissues must be removed with the growth to ensure all abnormal cells have been removed. All digital nerves will be gently pulled away, severed, and retracted into fascial planes. 

Before the digit bone can be cut, the periosteum is circularly excised to the level of amputation. The outer layer of the bone is cut first to prevent the formation of bone spurs in the digit. The bone is then severed at the joint, or is cut with bone cutters, a Gigli wire, or saw, depending on the veterinarian’s choice or available tools. All bone dust and fragments are then removed. The veterinarian will then close the surgical site with a non-absorbable suture and place the canine in recovery for monitoring purposes. 

Efficacy of Digit Amputation in Dogs

Digit amputation is a procedure that successfully removes the toe from the paw. Amputating a digit can also be successful in removing cancerous cell growth from the affected toe and lessening the chance for a recurrence. 

Digit Amputation Recovery in Dogs

Following the surgical procedure for digit amputation, the canine will be monitored for hypothermia, pain, and excessive bleeding. The dog will require assistance in standing and walking to prevent bruising the surgical site. At home, the canine will be required to wear an Elizabethan collar and remain in a well-padded area to prevent manipulation of the surgical site. Pain medications and an antibiotic will be administered as directed, in addition to temperature checks every day. 

Cost of Digit Amputation in Dogs

The estimated cost for a canine digit amputation is $1500. The price can vary depending on the condition the dog is affected with and aftercare needs. 

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Dog Digit Amputation Considerations

Digit amputation in dogs can cause immediate postoperative bleeding beneath the skin, gradually oozing from the surgical site.

In some incidences, massive hemorrhaging has been reported in dogs that receive improper home care or surgical technique. If the bleeding is not associated with a blood vessel, the blood can be aspirated and a pressure bandage is applied.

However, if a blood vessel has been opened, immediate surgical care is required before the dog undergoes major blood loss. Infections are also a possible postoperative consideration that can occur in canines and require prompt veterinary care. 

Digit Amputation Prevention in Dogs

Digit amputation in dogs can be avoided if the pet parent decides not to have the dewclaw removed or if other forms of treatment have worked effectively. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy may be used to treat digit tumors if the dog owner is not comfortable with an amputation.

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Digit Amputation Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals


Pit mix



Seven Years


2 found this helpful


2 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Pad Impalement By Toenails W/Possible Nail Death
Cecilia Grace - Certified Service Animal - Works w/me as Red Cross Disaster Response Nurse - Thick nails - Long/dilated quicks - Nails curve under & impale pads - 4 of 10 nails w/this issue - Gait impaired - Dew Claws WNL - I’m in Brooklyn as a Travel PICU/Trauma Nurse from Ohio - Can’t access my home Vet & can’t manage at home - One Vet here recommended digit amputation(s) d/t nail death - Chronic issue - Has previously undergone surgical trimming x3 - No known medical issues/allergies - No current meds - I would value your assessment & opinion - Thank you for your help - Christina

Aug. 23, 2020

Answered by Dr. Sara O. DVM

2 Recommendations

Hello, Some nails will grow so long that they grow back into their paws. If you trim them very often this won't happen. There is a disease called Symmetrical lupoid onychodystrophy that can also cause toenail death. If keeping the nails trimmed does not help speak to your vet about this issue and see if starting him on medication will help.

Aug. 25, 2020

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Pit bull




15 Years


22 found this helpful


22 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Tumor Between Toes
My dog needs his back right paw, pinky toe amputated due to a tumor thats growing very fast. He is 15 yrs. old but very energetic, loves to run & overall healthy. How will this effect him after the amputation? What should I expect? Will his balance be bad? Does he need to learn how to walk again? Is the pinky toe a balancing toe?

Aug. 25, 2018

22 Recommendations

The amputation of a ‘pinky’ toe isn’t so bad as one of the two centre toes which are more weight bearing; there should be little effect on Tank’s overall mobility and I wouldn’t be too concerned in amputating one of the outer toes. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 26, 2018

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