Bone Fractures in Dogs and Puppies
As responsible pet parents, we all try to prevent our beloved pets from injury. Sometimes accidents happen, and all we can do is help them recover. Bone fractures and breaks are very common injuries among dogs young, old, and in-between. Learn to recognize the symptoms of fractures, how to treat them, and what you can do to prevent these injuries.
Causes of Fractures
The leading cause of bone fractures in dogs is trauma. This can result from a car accident, a fall, or a fight between two dogs. A pressure or force is exerted on the dog’s limb that is too much for the bone to handle and it cracks or snaps.
What dogs are more prone to fractures?
Small dogs and toy dog breeds are more likely to experience leg fractures because their bones are much smaller and more fragile. It’s especially important to be gentle when playing with tiny dogs and prevent them from jumping off furniture or falling from other heights, such as out of a person’s arms.
Some medical conditions, like arthritis, can make a dog more prone to fractures. Older dogs have weaker, more brittle bones and are also more susceptible to bone injuries.
Symptoms of Fractures
The first sign of an injury is a sudden yelp or cry. If the fracture is on a limb, the dog may limp or refuse to bear weight on the affected leg.
There are several different types of fractures, depending on how the bone is potentially broken:
- Closed fracture: The dog’s bone may be cracked, but the skin is not broken. Swelling of the area, inability to move the limb, and whimpering indicating pain are all symptoms. Seek veterinary attention and try to keep your pet as still as possible to prevent their condition from worsening.
- Greenstick fracture: In these cases, the bone is cracked but not completely fractured. There may be minor swelling and limping, but you should still see a vet to prevent the fracture from healing wrong; this can result in lameness and reduced mobility of the joint.
- Compound fracture: The most dangerous type of fracture, the bone is easily visible through the skin. This puts the dog at high risk for infection and also of going into shock. Bleeding, swelling, and aggressive behavior due to pain are symptoms.
- Epiphyseal fracture: These fractures occur most commonly in young dogs, as their bones are still growing. The break happens on the soft area of the bone, or the growth plate.
Diagnosing a Fractured Bone
If your dog is exhibiting signs of pain, such as limping, whining, refusing to move, or eating or drinking less, it’s important to seek immediate veterinary care. Your veterinarian will perform a physical examination, ask questions about how the injury occurred, and may also take radiographs (x-rays).
Treatment of Fractures
Depending on the location and type of fracture, splints, pins, casts, plates, and screws may be used separately or together to realign the bone. Healing times depend on the age and breed of the dog, but count on giving your dog lots of loving care. Surgery is sometimes required for more tricky fractures, and pain medication may be prescribed by your vet.
Recovering from a Fracture
Your veterinarian will provide advice and aftercare instructions specific to your pet’s injury. While your pup’s broken bone heals, it’s important to encourage a swift recovery by reducing any activity that could delay healing or make the injury worse.
- Confine your pet as directed by your veterinarian. This may include using a crate or baby gates to section off a small area of the home. Use a short leash when going outside for potty breaks. This will help to prevent activities that might exacerbate the injury or delay healing.
- Reduce activity. Don’t allow vigorous playing, running, or jumping on/off furniture. Consider keeping them stimulated with mental games such as puzzle toys with treats stuffed inside, KONG toys, or hiding kibble or treats under cups.
Your dog will try to use the broken leg before the fracture is completely healed. Please continue to follow your veterinarian’s recommended protocol of reduced activity until bone healing has been confirmed with x-rays. Getting back to regular activities too soon can cause serious healing problems.
No matter how much you try to protect your pet, chances are they’ll get injured a few times in their life. Knowing and recognizing the symptoms of common injuries and illnesses is the best thing a prepared pet parent can do for their pet. Never assume a fracture will heal on its own, and always see your vet if you suspect a fracture.