The Water Bowl
Breed & Health Resources

Toe amputations for cats and dogs


You don't normally think about toe amputations for cats and dogs but it does happen and can have an impact on the animal's walk.

Impact of Toe Amputation

Dogs and cats have five toes with the dew claw being the first toe, which is not in contact with the ground. That leaves four toes that actually support the dog or cat.

The third and fourth toes are the weight bearing toes and are missed the most by a dog or cat even if only one of them is amputated. If a weight bearing toe is amputated, cats and small breed dogs are less likely to be lame than larger breed dogs. Even though the second and fifth toes are important, they are not major weight bearing toes and dogs and cats do quite well if these are removed.

Reasons for Toe Amputations in Dogs and Cats

The most common reasons for toe amputations are due to trauma, such as getting hit by a car, and tumors. Surprisingly, tumors of the toes are pretty common in dogs but having said that, we couldn't find much useful information on the web about these tumors so we quizzed one of our veterinarian friends (thanks Heather!) about toe amputations and tumors and she pointed us in the direction of two large studies done on toe disorders in dogs.

The first study had 96 dogs with disorders of the nail and nail bed, which showed that 12 out of the 96 dogs with nail disorders had cancerous tumors. The second study had 124 dogs with toe masses, of which 101 were tumors. This basically just shows that not all lumps are cancerous but get your vet to take a look no matter what.

The jury is still out on predisposition of gender, location and breed to get toe tumors but some people feel that male breeds are predisposed to tumors more than females. No-one has proved one way or another.

Types of Toe Tumors

The most common types of cancer are

  • squamous cell carcinoma (malignant tumors of the skin) – most commonly seen in black large breed dogs such as Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, Giant Schnauzers and Standard Poodles but also seen in Dachshunds
  • malignant melanoma (malignant tumors of the melanocytes in the skin) – most commonly seen in Schnauzers and Irish Setters
  • mast cell tumors (accumulation of mast cells on the toes)
  • soft tissue sarcomas (cancer of the soft tissue on the toe or other parts of the body)

Other less common types are osteosarcoma (bone cancer), histiocytoma (benign tumor), basal cell tumor and a variety of benign (non-cancerous) tumors.


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