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GREYHOUND TOE INJURIES 

The toes of racing Greyhounds are injury prone sometimes curtailing the racing career. These injuries can be broadly classified as fractures, dislocations and damage to the skin or pads.

 

The vast majority can be successfully treated and TOE AMPUTATION IS RARELY NECESSARY.

 Fractures 

There are three bones in each toe and all can suffer from breaks. Fractures can be a single fracture line or multiple fragments, and some will involve the joints. Supporting the foot with dressings will allow many fractures to heal rapidly but the disadvantage is that the bone cannot be set leading to a misshapen toe and subsequent lameness.

 

The preferred treatment method for unstable fractures is the application of an external fixator comprising of several pins inserted through the skin above and below the fracture site and joined with an acrylic connecting bar. This allows stabilisation and alignment of the bones.

 

Fractures that extend into the joint always result in arthritis as the joint surface loses its profile causing a joint instability. Healing results in a joint with a reduced range of movement or even a solid joint. However racing dogs usually cope with no lameness or loss of form.

 Dislocations 

Dislocations of any of the three toe joints are common and are sometimes referred to as knocked up or sprung toes. Clinical signs include a swollen joint or possibly a bent toe or toes. Traditional treatment methods include pin-firing, surgical ligament replacement and surgical ligament repair, none giving predictable results.

 

The application of an external fixator across the joint, applied to either the top joint (metacarpal/tarsal phalangeal) or middle joint (P1/P2) gives predictable excellent results with minimal surgical interference. The fixator is left in place for three weeks and the dog returned to training seven weeks from the initial surgery.

 

The principle behind this treatment is that if the joint is held in its normal position for a period of time scar tissue replaces the torn ligaments and provides sufficient support.

 

Dislocation of the nail joint is simply treated by permanent nail removal taking away the lever across the joint.

 Pads 
Pad lameness is usually from either a penetrating foreign body or a corn. The former will have an entry wound and will often exude serum. However this can be easily confused with a corn.
 

Corns 

A corn is a circular area of hard pad that may appear to have an entry wound in its centre. They are thickened areas of pad tissue and some have a root that invades the tissues under the pad.  Lameness can be profound and is often worse on hard ground and can be likened to walking with a stone in your shoe.

 

This condition is seen almost entirely in sight hounds and evidence suggests a mechanical cause as in man. 85% occur in the central toes of the front feet. Corns are more common in toes with anatomical deformities.

 

Initial treatment is surgical excision and will give initial results of a 75% cure rate but after one year more than 50% will have recurred. Subsequent treatment involves amputating the end of the toe but preserving the pad. As the corn is then not then on the weight bearing area of the pad it will resolve naturally.

 Split webs 

The webbing is the skin between the toes. If the leading edge is cut then the web will often split further each time the dog runs. Cutting back the web as far as the main pad prevents further tears and does not weaken the foot.

 Sand burns/split foot 

A sand burn is a superficial abrasion of the skin over the tendons to the central toes of the back feet. It is due to the action of the sand on the tightened skin. If this abrasion becomes full thickness it is called a split foot. THIS CUT WILL ALWAYS OPEN WITH EACH RACE.

 

Treatment is by cutting back the web to the outside of the split and is 80% successful. If the split recurs then the central web can also be safely cut back and is usually successful.

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X-ray of external fixator for a fracture/dislocation
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photograph of an external fixator in place
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Split foot.
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corn

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