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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. An amputation will involve cuts made through skin, muscles, nerves and bone, so a trained veterinary surgeon is advised to complete this procedure. The digit of the dog is commonly referred to as the toe to pet owners and is often removed for cosmetic purposes. Removal of the dewclaw (comparable to the thumb in humans) to prevent the injury to hunting and working dogs is a form of digit amputation, as are declawing procedures (which are uncommon in dogs). Conditions that require digit amputation for treatment are usually limited to some form of malignant or benign tumor. 

Digit Amputation Procedure in Dogs

Prior to conducting the digit amputation procedure, the surgical site will be clipped and prepped for aseptic surgery. The limb that the affected digit occupies 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 veterinarian 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 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. 

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Efficacy of Digit Amputation in Dogs

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

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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. 

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Cost of Digit Amputation in Dogs

The estimated cost for a canine digit amputation is $350. 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. 

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Digit Amputation Prevention in Dogs

Digit amputation in dogs can be avoided if the pet owner 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

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Pit mix

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Seven Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has 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

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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0 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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Tank

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Pit bull

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15 Years

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has 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

Tank's Owner

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3320 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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Larry

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Bichon Frise

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14 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

None

14 year old Bichon who has a tumor on foot and vet says to amputate toe. Needle biopsy- she said not mast cell but not benign. She said further testing would not lead to different recommendation. (New in town so this vet doesn't know us.) She is to call re: whether the surgeon there can do it or whether we'd have to go somewhere else. The tumor has been there about a month and isn't bothering him. Larry is an extreme licker anyway and when he's had to have a cone before we've never had any luck keeping it on. He's on the anxious side! I'm worried about the aftercare with the surgery. How would we keep him from licking? He also still jumps on the furniture. Wonder about doing nothing and not put him through something that will stress him/us out at his age.

July 5, 2018

Larry's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Doing nothing is always an option, and Larry's age and behavior is a concern, true. If the tumor is growing quickly, that may make removal more urgent. I think I would want more details on the type of tumor so that you know what to expect as far as aggressiveness of growth, and then have a conversation with your veterinarian about his tendencies, your concerns, and what you might expect after surgery vs. if you do nothing.

July 6, 2018

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Cognac

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Chihuahua

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9 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Swollen Joints

My dog was diagnosed with cancer in his toe, we are talking about toe amputation or entire leg amputation, of course its a matter of money and time, as far as we know the cancer has not spread- now i know this cancer spreads fast, is toe amputation going to get rid of the cancer, or do i take his whole leg and it definitely will ? Im just lost at what to do, and i dont have much time

June 21, 2018

Cognac's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

There are many factors to consider when thinking about cancer of the toe; the origin of the cancer (bone or soft tissue), the type of cancer among other factors are important to consider. Generally depending on the suspected type of cancer we may amputate the toe, the paw or the leg depending on whether we believe the cancer has spread; your Veterinarian will be able to guide you on this based on their evaluation of the cancer. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 22, 2018

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Sandy

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Labrador Retriever

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Ten Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Licking

I see you have dog walkers in Boston - do you have a surgical facility? My yellow lab (10 yo) has a growth/tumor between her toes. Medication (ointment) helped with it temporarily, but now it's back even bigger than before. I think her toe needs to be amputated.

May 10, 2018

Sandy's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Most veterinarians will be able to perform that procedure, if her tow does actually need to be amputated, you may not need to have a referral to a specialist. It would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian first, as they can determine what the best course of action is with you, and they will be able to let you know if oral medications may help, if amputation is necessary, and if they are comfortable performing that surgery. I hope that all goes well for Sandy.

May 10, 2018

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wilbur

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lahsa poo

dog-age-icon

13 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Pain, Limp

My 13 year old lahsa poo has chronic non union fractures and possible luxations of three of the digits on this leg, in terms I understand: it appears that in three of four toes the first two bones are dislocated and and it also appears one of the metacarpal bones has a fracture. The xray findings were delayed because of a number of errors and the fact that he has a history of nerve pain so when he initially went lame we (dr and me) thought it was nerve related. He has a limp that varies with his pain level but he does get around and still instigates play on occassion, even though I think he suffers for it later. To complicate things his other front foot has always been turned out (club) and has gotten much much worse as he compensates using the club foot. Sounds like the ortho may recommend digit removal for all three toes or more? I can't find info on multiple digit amputation and wondering if the stress of surgery is wise and what the healing and recovery would be for him. If in the long run it decreases his pain significantly and if he can still get around we may go ahead with amputation.

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Roscoe

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Pit Bull/Miniature Schnauzer mix

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11 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Limping

My 11-year-old Pit/Mini-Schnauzer mix had his pinky toe removed in December 2019 due to a soft-tissue sarcoma growth. He has since (April 2019) been diagnosed with an aggressive disseminated form of brain cancer. We did not opt for a biopsy of his brain cancer. He is on 5 mg of prednisone daily and receives lomustine for chemotherapy. He also takes Denamarin for his liver, Fortiflora, and Nutramax Cosequin. He is doing well - still going on his walks, swimming, chasing squirrels, playing with his toys, eating/drinking, etc. In the past couple of months, he has been limping on/off on the leg that had the toe-removal. One day he limps, the next couple of days he is fine and then it repeats. I will be following up with our vet but wanted to see what your thoughts were. Looking at and touching his leg/paw/toes doesn't seem to bother him or show anything of concern. Any thoughts?

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Chuy

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pit bull terrier

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9 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Toe Swollen, Red & Nail Deformation

My 9 yr old Pit Bull Terrier developed a swollen toe in April 2019. I took her in and did X-Ray to find a little infection in the bone and she was treated with 2 weeks of antibiotic. Two weeks later, no improvement. Vet put her on 4 weeks of a different antibiotic. Four weeks later and little improvement. Vet did an 2nd X-Ray with no changes rather good or bad. They now want to amputate her toe in case of tumor behind the nail bed but I am not feeling good about this for we have no concrete evidence that its cancer. Help???

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Lacey

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Greyhound

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Four Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Limping

My retired 4 year old racing greyhound was adopted by my husband and I shortly after she lost the nail from digit 3 on her left foot. It is a year later, that pad has formed a corn that has been filed down twice. She tends to carry that foot up until she gets on the grass, gets excited and runs or when she pees and poops. She walks on it 30 percent of the time. If digit 3 is removed what will happen? Will she walk on her 3 toed foot once it heals?

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Rosco

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Wire Fox Terrier

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13 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Sore

My 13 yr old wired hair terrier was bitten by a bigger dog had many outside punchers on his right rear leg, and large plunger holes inside of thigh that required drains. After 3 and half weeks the vet keep wounds wrapped and keeping dry was a hard. Now they say based from either injury or soiled wrapping caused his two outer toes to die, and now say may need to be amputated . At the point I wonder about his care there after from staying there he has some bed sores to treat. This is a emergency clinic should I go back to my local vet at this point? My bills or over 5 k at this point.

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