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Dog Bone Fracture: Everything You Need to Know

Finding that your dog has broken a leg can be an extremely stressful, even frightening, experience. In this post, our St. Louis vets explain how to identify symptoms of a bone fracture and discuss treatment, recovery, and more.

Identifying a Fractured Bone

When a dog breaks a bone, the symptoms will often be evident right away. The. bone will have typically broken through the skin, causing significant pain. However, it's also possible for bones to break inside the body without breaking the skin. 

If your dog whines or whimpers when a specific body part is touched, that may be one clue that your pooch has sustained this significant injury. Other symptoms that your dog has broken a bone may include:

  • Swelling and bruising surrounding the affected joint
  • Difficulty moving the joint, accompanied by pain and stiffness 
  • Asymmetrical appearance (one joint looks deformed, swollen, or otherwise abnormal or out of place)
  • Bending, twisting, or shortening of the joint

Never try to replace a dislocated joint, as any attempts to do so can result in further damage. 

What should I do if I suspect my dog has a broken bone? 

If your dog is displaying of the signs listed above and you suspect they may be suffering from a broken bone, our veterinarians recommend contacting Animal Emergency Clinic or your closest emergency veterinary clinic right away.

Specifically, follow these steps to get your dog the help they need:

1. Stay Calm 

Every doting dog parent considers their pooch a member of the family and shudders at the thought of their four-legged friend getting injured or sick. Unfortunately, just like their humans, dogs can become ill and sustain physical injuries.

Broken bones in dogs are more common than you may think, but the first step you should take in this situation is to remain calm. Your dog will likely be frightened and in pain, and will be counting on you to get them the veterinary care and attention they need. As their parent, you need to stay calm enough to get them emergency veterinary care right away. 

2. Call an Emergency Vet Immediately 

If you suspect your dog has broken a bone, it will need to be assessed and treated by an emergency veterinarian as soon as possible. Fortunately, our emergency vets at Animal Emergency Clinic are here to help. 

Write down as much information as you can remember about the cause of the fractured bone, so you can provide it to the veterinarian. Depending on how the injury occurred (fall, struck by an object, etc.), the veterinarian may have insight into the fracture and/or assess your dog for other injuries. 

3. Don't Try to Fix It Yourself 

Do not try to set or splint the bone or apply any creams, sprays, or ointments to the injury. These actions can cause your dog to become more agitated and bite due to pain. 

If your dog is bleeding heavily, wrap the injury carefully with a clean cloth and apply pressure to stop the bleeding. You may need to muzzle your dog during this process to prevent them from biting due to pain. 

Cover your dog with a blanket to keep them as warm and comfortable as possible. 

4. Get Help to Move Your Dog 

When you first discover your dog's injury, move them indoors to a quiet, safe location if they aren't already there. 

You'll need to take your dog to an emergency veterinary clinic, so try to get some help, especially if you have a larger breed dog. It's critical to move your dog carefully and steadily to avoid further discomfort or injury. You will likely also want someone to accompany you to the vet to keep your dog company and offer assistance. 

Remember that relocating your dog after a bone fracture or injury can be painful for them, so using a muzzle may be important to preventing anyone from being injured. 

How Broken Bones in Dogs Are Treated 

Your veterinarian will assess your dog's broken leg and the severity of the injury or injuries, then recommend treatment options. These options may include performing surgery to repair the bone, setting the bone, or, in extremely severe cases, amputating the limb.

Your dog will likely need X-rays of the injured area to assess the type and extent of the fracture. They may also need to be sedated and/or medicated to relieve pain during this process. 

The veterinarian can also prescribe a series of medications, including anti-inflammatory medication, pain control, antibiotics, and more. These will help the wound heal and prevent infections. 

Healing Time & Recovery for Dogs With Broken Bones

After your dog's broken bone has been repaired, your pooch will need quite a bit of healing time. Your veterinarian will likely fit your dog for a cast and may recommend therapy to restore natural mobility. 

Recovery will typically take a couple of months, depending on the severity of the injury. The cast may be required for more or less time accordingly.

While your dog has the cast on, they may need to wear a cone (e-collar) to prevent licking or chewing on the cast. This is important to avoid damage to the cast or ingestion of harmful objects.

A puppy or dog with a broken leg won't be able to run, jump or play until they have healed. This restriction of activity will help to prevent further injury and support a successful recovery. However, they should be walked regularly and engage in gentle exercise according to the recommendations of a veterinarian and/or physical therapist. 

The vet may recommend using cold ice packs or providing gentle massages to the injury to aid recovery. Following these instructions carefully can significantly impact the healing process. However, if the vet doesn't recommend these treatments, it's best to let the bone heal naturally. 

As you might imagine, wearing the cast and the e-collar may cause your dog some discomfort, so try to help them feel as comfortable as possible while they recuperate. 

Our Emergency Services

We offer dedicated emergency services at each of our clinic locations. You'll find quality, compassionate care at both clinics. While our O'Fallon location provides emergency care 24 hours, 7 days a week, our Kirkwood location's hours can be found on our emergency page. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. Always follow your doctor's advice regarding asthma or other allergy symptoms. 

Do you suspect your dog may have fractured a bone? This is a veterinary emergency. Contact our St. Louis vets at either of our locations right away.

Compassionate Emergency Care for Pets

Animal Emergency Clinic is an after-hours emergency animal hospital providing urgent care to cats and dogs from St. Louis and surrounding areas. Contact us right away if you are experiencing a veterinary emergency.

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