If your beloved pet has sustained a fracture, you need to know how to spot the problem, where to go for emergency treatment, what the various treatment options consist of, and how to provide your pet with the necessary aftercare. Some fractures are not only extremely painful, but can also lead to dangerous infections, so it’s always safest to assume that your pet’s fracture is an emergency until you know otherwise from a trained veterinarian.
Broken bones are certainly not uncommon occurrences among dogs, cats, and other animals. Higher risk groups include boisterous puppies and kittens who haven’t yet learned how to recognize and dodge potential threats, as well as other senior pets who can’t get out of harm’s way in time due to arthritis, vision limitations, cognitive disorders, or hearing loss. Toy dogs may also be at high risk because of their relatively small, light bone structure. The most common sites for fractures include the spinal column, jawbone, pelvis, and femur.
Fractures can vary in form, symptoms, and severity. An incomplete fracture does not break all the way through – this type of break may not require surgical repair, but it can also be harder for owners to recognize. A complete break through the bone may occur in one place, or in multiple places. In an open fracture, the exposed bone end may actually penetrate the skin, creating an open wound that invites bacterial infection.
How do I care for my pet’s broken bones?
While open fractures are easy for pet owners to identify, other types of fractures may only become evident under examination. A limb that appears unnaturally bent, swollen, of foreshortened may well be fractured. Your pet may limp, cry, or avoid using the affected limb at all. Any of these issues should be your signal to bring your pet to our emergency veterinarian clinic.
What to expect at the clinic
Our trained veterinarians will perform a timely but thorough examination, using x-rays to evaluate the location, extent, and severity of the fracture. Treatment of minor or incomplete fractures may involve applying a splint or cast to immobilize the injured area. In more serious cases, we may need to realign the bones and fix them in place surgically via:
- External fixation: rods along the outside of the injury site are surgically attached to the body with pins, which are then removed after the healing is complete
- Internal fixation: Metal plates and screws secure the fracture from within, and remains inside the body for life.
Are there different types of broken bones?
Broken or fractured bones come in two basic types: open or closed fractures. An open fracture happens when the skin is broken and you can see the bone. In a closed fracture, the skin is intact and covers the fractured bone. There are also hairline fractures, which are closed fractures where the bone isn’t completely broken in half, but merely cracked. They should be treated just as seriously as other fractures, though.
How can I tell if my pet has a broken bone?
Sometimes a pet’s broken bone is easy to diagnose, like when you can see the end of the bone sticking through the torn skin. In other cases, it may be more difficult. After an injury or accident, if your pet is limping or whining, it’s possibly that they’ve sustained a fracture. Any sign of pain after an accident can be a sign for your to contact our office.
What causes a broken bone?
Bones are tough and it takes a great deal of force to fracture one. Fractures are caused by a sudden impact or great force from a fall, or an object. They’re most likely to happen to older pets with brittle bones, and to excitable pets that are prone to adventure.
What should I do if my pet has a broken bone?
If you suspect your pet has broken a bone, call our office first, then follow these three basic rules:
- Never try to set a fracture
- Never use medication on an open fracture
- Get your pet to our office as soon as possible
How to transport a pet with a broken bone
Transporting your pet can be a challenge if they’re in pain. In all cases, muzzle your animal first to avoid accidental injuries, as animals in pain are apt to lash out and bite.
If you suspect a broken back, gently pull your pet onto a flat board without moving its back, then strap it in place. Never put pressure on the neck or back.
For a suspected broken limb, gently slide a clean towel under the broken limb. Support the limb with the towel as you transport your pet.
Broken tails may be painful, but they pose no immediate danger to your pet.
It can be frightening to think of your pet having broken a bone, but our emergency vet team is experienced at caring for fractures of all types. If your pet suffers from an accident and you suspect a broken bone, contact us for the quickest appointment.