That is a fancy way of saying that Phoebe fractured one of the bones in her paw.

Ay! ay, ay, ay!

One minute everything is normal; fifteen minutes later she hobbled three-footed into the living room with her right paw up and her body askew before rolling belly-up on the floor. It took a moment for my mind to register what I had just seen, even then I was not sure. In an attempt to assess what the heck was going on, I grabbed a treat. Yep! That caught her attention.

When Phoebe saw me going for a treat, she was up in a heartbeat. That is when I was able to see the true issue: she could not walk on her right leg. Her leg was bent at the elbow and hanging limply at the ‘wrist’. In med-speak it was lame. After her dramatic entrance, I was relieved that the issue was isolated to one leg.

I looked for apparent signs of disfigurement and swelling; nothing was readily apparent. Phoebe obligingly let me check between her toes and the pads of her foot, looking for a thorn or cut on her paw, perhaps a broken toe nail or some other anomaly. Everything looked normal. She remained complacent as I gently worked my way up her leg trying to locate the source of the problem. Nothing looked or felt swollen. During this exam Phoebe did not flinch. Still, since she was injured, I did not let my guard down.

Injured Dog 101

Injured Dog 101 – the sweetest dog in the world may bite when injured or in pain. Every dog has a different level of tolerance to pain. I did not know what Phoebe’s tolerance level was since this was the first true injury I had encountered. It turned out that she is pretty darn tolerant; other dogs may not be so accommodating.

When examining your dog, you must watch (and feel) your dog’s reaction. You must also be prepared to avoid a bite.

A visit to the vet

After eliminating the basics, a trip to the after-hours emergency clinic seemed in order. Why is it that pets always manage to need vet care after hours and on weekends? A rhetorical question. Nonetheless, I was not comfortable waiting three days to get her checked out. We were at the vet clinic within an hour of see Phoebe’s symptoms.

By the time the vet did his exam, Phoebe’s paw showed signs of minor swelling and she was showing signs pain. She was panting, whining, and looked unhappy in general; it is hard to describe. From the look of things, we got her to the vet before the pain and other symptoms manifested – dumb luck perhaps.

The vet did cursory exam and noted that Phoebe felt pain when he touched her paw. He wanted to take x-rays and felt that her pain warranted some pain killers. Odd – I would never have figured she was in that much pain. Yet, just like when the vet checked Phoebe’s belly after the candle caper, there are signs that a trained eye can see. My eye is definitely untrained.

After I signed a release form the vet gave Phoebe an IV of hydromorph (a morphine derivative for extreme pain – like broken bones). He also gave her acepromazine (a sedative keeps a dog from stressing out when a vet performs procedures) so that he could maneuver her paw and get x-rays.

X-ray of Phoebe's leg
X-ray of Phoebe’s leg- click to enlarge

The Diagnosis

The x-rays revealed a fracture on her right “knuckle” bone. The official diagnosis:
“transverse fracture of axial sesamoid 4th metacarpophalyngeal joint with minimal displacement. The fracture is undisplaced so should heal quickly.”
Whew! that is a mouthful. In short, it is a simple fracture that should heal properly after wearing a splint for 3-4  weeks.

Fractured bone
Fractured bone – click to enlarge
Enlarged view of fractured bone
Enlarged view of fractured bone – Click to enlarge

The Treatment

The vet put what is called a Robert Jones splint on Phoebe’s leg (it is pink with little purple hearts), gave us a five day supply of metacam (non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory) and we were on our way. We were very lucky that we got Phoebe to the vet virtually right after she injured herself, leaving no time for further injury or pain to set in.

We have to take her to her regular vet in 5 or 6 days to get the splint checked, unfortunately, they do not last a full 3-4 weeks. We have to avoid situations that would get the splint wet including not allowing her to lick it to the point of wetness. They gave us a little plastic cover to put on when she goes outside. If she starts licking the splint, she will earn a trip on the shame train and have to wear a cone collar – Nooooooo!

The recovery

At the moment Phoebe is so hopped up on pain killers that she is just lying there staring into space. She looks like she just walked out of an opium den. I gave her a treat and instead of going crazy like she normally does, she just lifted her head, ate it and lay back down to continue staring in space. I guess it is better to be zoned out than to be in pain.

Doped Up Phoebe
Doped Up Phoebe

The cause

So what caused the fracture? I did some research and learned that the 3rd and 4th metacarpals (bones in the paw) are the major weight-bearing bones. Fracturing is usually caused by trauma of a car accident, and occasionally from underlying bone disease or repetitive stress. In fact, it is common among racing Greyhounds.

I could easily rule out the car accident. I do not think she has a bone disease, but she does repeatedly stress out those little bones. She jumps off chairs and couches, which I do not believe results in a great amount of stress. They are low to the ground and on carpet. If I was a betting gal, I bet that my bed is the offender.

My bed is high off the ground (higher than an average bed) and is on a hardwood floor. Phoebe has to make a running jump to get up on it, so I am sure that jumping off puts more stress than usual on her front feet. Add to the equation that she jumps on and off more times than I count and I think I found the culprit. I am not sure what to do about it since that is where she sleeps.

She may use a ramp or steps to get up on the bed, but she is too spunky and impulsive to use them to get off the bed.

Does anyone have any ideas on how I can reduce the impact of jumping onto a hardwood floor?