Posted By: Greg - Vet

Rooney’s toe gets sent off

A swollen toe can be an uncomfortable cause of bother, or an unfortunate injury for a footballer, but unlike his namesake, Rooney the Labrador’s condition was far more serious. Rooney is an excitable dog who just wants to make friends but rarely stays still! A swelling by the dog’s nail noted by his owners led to a crucial surgery after a few visits and tests at the vet practice.

Rooney the seven year old black Labrador had been lame for a couple of days and his owners had noticed him often holding his paw off the ground. Not only this, but his nail seemed to be pointing in a different direction. Rooney was always bouncy and excitable at the vets, but once in his appointment, he managed to stay still just long enough to have his nail examined.

The toe was slightly swollen, especially from beneath the base of the nail, which had then caused the nail to split and point upwards, with evidence of infection here. The nail was trimmed back to the base and Rooney was treated for a nailbed infection, which can be very common in dogs. He started antibiotics and anti-inflammatories to be given in his food for a week, and was re-examined at the end of his course.

Rooney was more comfortable and the infection had cleared, but the toe was even more swollen, and a red, fleshy growth was protruding out from beneath the casing of the nail. A test was performed on the swelling to aspirate and extract some cells with a needle – luckily Rooney was very brave and managed to stay very still again after some local anaesthetic was sprayed onto his toe. Slides were taken of Rooney’s sample to be sent to the lab.

The next day, the results were in and although not conclusive, they suggested more was going on than a simple infection. A papilloma, a benign viral growth, was suspected, but there remained the possibility of a cancer, which couldn’t be ruled out on this sample. Rooney’s toe was monitored for a couple of days, but continued to deteriorate, so the decision was taken for surgery to remove his toe as it had become so distorted and lost its normal shape and function. Luckily, the affected toe was on the side of his paw – this meant that it wasn’t one of the most important weight bearing toes in the middle of the foot, so Rooney wouldn’t miss it too much!

On the day of his surgery, Rooney’s foot and chest were X-rayed, in case there was a cancerous growth present in his paw which had spread – luckily there was no trace of this. His surgery went really well and the amputated toe was placed into formalin to send to the lab. Whilst waiting for the results, which would take about a week, Rooney was to be rested with his foot in bandage. Surgery around the foot can be difficult, as the wound can become dirty and break down due to the constant bearing of weight, so it was a critical few days to allow healing. Once more, Rooney’s bounciness had to be tamed for his recovery, and once again he had to stay still a few more times for his bandages to be changed by the nurses at the practice every few days.

The results that came back were not good, in that the diagnosis of the growth in Rooney’s toe was in fact a cancer, and quite a malignant type known as a squamous cell carcinoma. But the good news was that the tumour had appeared to be fully removed, on top of the fact that his X-rays had been clear. With this information, Rooney’s surgery should result in a complete cure, and after his wound had healed he didn’t need to stay still any longer!

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