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Fracture of the Metatarsus and Metacarpus in Dogs

By: Dr. David Diamond

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The metatarsal bones are the long bones in the hind foot (the arch of the human foot) that connect the toes to the bones of the ankle (tarsus). The metacarpal bones are the long bones in the front foot (the human palm) that connects the fingers to the bones of the wrist (carpus). Fractures of these bones usually occur as the result of major trauma.

These fractures can be classified as "open" (bones exposed) or "closed," and can be "simple" or "comminuted" (multiple fragments). Depending on the nature of the fractures and the age of the animal, different methods of repair may be indicated for each situation.

Metatarsal and metacarpal fractures generally heal well without long-term effects on the cat, but they can lead to abnormal function of the foot if not properly treated.

What to Watch For

  • Lameness
  • Swelling of paw
  • Pet not putting weight on the paw
  • Pain when paw is handled

    Diagnosis

    A thorough physical examination is important to determine if fractures are present and to determine if there are other injuries. No laboratory tests are required to make the diagnosis, but your veterinarian may recommend the following:

  • Complete orthopedic examination
  • Radiographs of the affected foot
  • Chest radiographs to determine other injuries

    Treatment

    Emergency care for concurrent problems caused by the trauma is the most important part of treatment. After stabilization, additional treatment may include:

  • Cast or splint. Certain fractures of the metatarsal and metacarpal bones can be managed successfully with a cast or splint.

  • Surgery. For some fractures, anesthesia and surgical stabilization of the bone fragments may be recommended.

  • Pain medication. Injectable analgesics (pain medications) are given to the animal while being treated in the hospital and may be continued orally once discharged from the hospital.

    Home Care and Prevention

    After surgical repair or immobilization in a cast or splint, the cat will require restricted activity for several weeks and the cast or splint will need to be kept clean and dry.

    A recheck appointment with the veterinarian will occur in several weeks to evaluate how the bones are healing (with new radiographs), to monitor the animal's progress, and to make sure it is safe to increase the cat's activity level.

    Most metatarsal and metacarpal fractures are caused by trauma and since many traumatic events are true accidents, they are often unavoidable. Keeping your dog confined to a fenced in area or leash walk only can help prevent some traumatic events.
                                            

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