Tansy, my retired racing Greyhound, has broken the dewclaw on one of her front legs while out on a walk. It has stopped bleeding, but she keeps licking at it and will not leave it alone. What should I do?

Alison Logan advises…

We seem to go through phases of seeing broken claws at my practice. I generally find there are two possible situations. If the broken piece of claw is now only loosely attached, then it is often possible to remove it without further ado. If, however, it is only cracked then the best course of action is to wait until the claw naturally grows out to such a point that the broken part falls off of its own accord, or can be removed without hurting the dog.

Either way, a dog will naturally want to lick at the broken claw, which can predispose to infection. Licking at any wound, whether accidental or surgical, is never a good idea and should be discouraged. After all, dogs use their tongue for all of their grooming, as well as eating all manner of things… I would therefore keep the area covered. You may be able to apply a light dressing around the part of the leg where the dewclaw is found, leaving the toes out below the dressing. Change the dressing daily to keep the wound clean, and so that you can also check the area on a regular basis.

Otherwise, you could simply pop a sock over your dog’s paw, held in place above the carpus (wrist) with zinc oxide tape or similar. It is important to change the dressing or sock if it becomes wet or dirty.  Some dogs will not keep on dressings of any kind, in which case the dreaded ‘cone of shame’ – more properly called an Elizabethan collar – is the only recourse.

If you are at all unsure, or concerned about how the broken claw looks, then I would certainly have it checked out at your veterinary practice. Your dog may need a course of antibiotics if the broken claw becomes infected, as well as pain relief.

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