Dogs With Sports Injuries

Helping your dog recover.

By | Posted: Thu Jul 29 00:00:00 PDT 2004

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One last word about surfaces and feet: Kenneling a growing puppy on cement is an invitation to producing flat feet; and the flat toes of flat feet are more easily broken than well-knuckled-up toes. The best prevention for broken toes is to keep the nails short. Select a dog with good, well-knuckled toes, and exercise him on a variety of surfaces.

Peeled pads are usually the result of running a dog on hard ground, or even dry grass. Many years ago the Greyhound bus com pany asked if I had a Greyhound that could run down the center of a paved road for one of their ads. I had to tell them that one run on pavement was all they were going to get from any Greyhound before the dog stripped his pads on the asphalt.

The paws of lure coursing Whippets and Greyhounds are taped for protection if the field that they are running on is hard or dry. There is an art to taping feet in such a way as to protect the dog's paws without interfering with his ability to run or turn. Some exhibitors use Vetwrap, which has the advantage of sticking only to itself and not to hair. I prefer to use stretch gauze covered with Elasticon stretch tape, with Elastoplast knuckle bandages for taping individual toes.

Even if the ground is not hard, many exhibitors tape the dewclaws to the leg to keep them from being injured. Dewclaws are the fragile fifth toes that lie on the inside of the dog's front legs, up near the stop pads. Many breeders remove puppies' dewclaws shortly after birth. I stopped doing that because I discovered that the dogs that have dewclaws use them much like people use thumbs. The dewclaws are sharp, and the dogs use them to hold bones still when they are chewing on them. A drawback to leaving the dewclaws on is that many dogs will put out a paw to their owner and snag him with one of those sharp dewclaws.

Stop pads are the small pads partway up the leg that don't normally touch the ground. They look as if they are placed too high on the leg to be functional, but sighthounds routinely use the stop pads to stop and turn at high speeds. When a dog is running the double-suspension gallop, the entire front paw - from the stop pad and dewclaw to the main pad - contacts the ground at a point in the gallop where the main leg bone is vertical, which puts it at right angles to the paw. This is called pastern lay down. It looks impossible, but high-speed photography shows that it actually happens.

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