Broken bones are often more challenging for our animal companions because they don’t understand where the pain and mobility issues are coming from, and they can often make fractures worse by trying to go about their daily lives. That is why fracture repair is an important procedure that can help your pet live a healthier, happier life.
Generally a fracture repair involves the veterinarian moving the fractured pieces of bone back into place and splinted so that it may heal properly. Sometimes more complicated measures need to be taken for badly broken bones and surgery is required.
It’s a terrible feeling to know that your pet is in pain from a broken bone, especially because there’s little you can do as a pet owner outside of seeking veterinary care. If you suspect your pet has a fracture, please don’t hesitate to call us today at (586) 939-4020.
What to expect when your dog needs surgery for a fracture:
Pet fractures can be scary, and it’s important to make sure they’re taken care of quickly. Often fractures require surgery to allow the bones of your pet to heal correctly and to limit future lameness.
The most common questions we get regarding fractures are around expectations and timeline. We aim to give you a better understanding of what to expect before, during, and after fracture repair surgery.
Before Surgery: Signs of a Fracture and Diagnosis
If your pet has a fracture (broken bone), it will almost always be obvious. You’ll notice significant lameness (limping), and your dog will try to limit the weight they put on the limb by holding it up. In severe cases with multiple broken limbs (such as a car accident or high fall), your dog might be unable or unwilling to move at all. Other signs of fractures include swelling, pain, or abnormal movement of the limbs. If you’re noticing any of these signs of a fracture in your pet, take them to a Veterinarian right away if you haven’t already.
Before treating the fractures, your Veterinarian will want to thoroughly evaluate your pet to ensure there are no other injuries to vital organs. They will likely order x-rays of the affected area and may sedate your pet to keep them calm and steady during this process. They might also recommend blood work, chest radiographs, or ultrasounds to further assess your pet’s condition.
During Fracture Treatment:
Your veterinarian will likely recommend a specific treatment based on your personal circumstances, your dog’s behavior, and the severity of the fracture.
The decision for how to treat a fracture takes several factors into account. These include factors related to your pet, such as their age, demeanor, activity level, size, and medical history. The severity of the fracture also comes into play – open fractures and high-impact breaks require more intervention than closed or low-impact fractures.
Your home environment will also be considered: If you’re able to closely supervise your dog and restrict its activity, you may be able to opt for a less invasive repair procedure.
The goal of fracture repair and management is to immobilize the bones of the leg in order to prevent further damage, reduce pain, and aid in proper healing. This is generally done through one of several fracture repair options:
Fracture Repair Options:
- A splint or cast can be applied to the outside of the limb.
- A surgically applied device can be attached to the bone via pins, along with an external fixture such as a rigid bar. These devices restrict bending that might cause additional damage and is known as “External Fixation” (Fig. 1).
- Lastly, a surgical device can be applied to the surface of the bone or inside of it. These devices have many options based on the severity of the fracture and activity level of the pet, including plates, pins, wires, nails, and screws. This is known as “Internal Fixation” (Fig. 2).
Fig 1: External
Fig 2: Internal
Aftercare and recovery timeline:
Your Surgeon will give you detailed instructions as to the best aftercare and postoperative steps for your pet.
If your pet has a bandage or splint, it will need to be monitored regularly and cared for carefully. Be sure to pay close attention to any chewing or slipping of your pet’s bandage and call your Surgeon immediately if you notice any problems with the bandage. These could include the bandage falling out of position, causing additional sores or swelling, or if the bandage gets wet or you notice a bad odor.
Your pet’s activity will need to be restricted to aid in recovery as well. This includes removing or reducing access to slippery floors like tile, wood, or laminate, and restricting access to stairs, couches, or other high places. Your pet should not be allowed to do any jumping up or down from furniture or cars, and playing, running, and jumping should all be reduced as much as possible.
Activity should be restricted until your Surgeon can confirm the fracture has healed through post-op radiographs. Your pet may feel ready to jump and play before this, so it’s important you stay firm and prevent them from doing so!
Fractures will need a minimum of 4 weeks of healing in young puppies, and 8-12 weeks for older dogs. The entire healing process can take up to 2-3 months if activity is properly restricted, and it will take longer if not.
Physical Therapy to aid recovery:
Depending on the severity of the fracture, your vet may recommend additional physical therapy treatments during recovery. The goal of physical therapy during the healing process is to maintain join, muscle, and nerve health without limiting healing of the bones.
Physical Therapy can be a combination of at-home care and professional care, depending on the needs of your pet. At-home care can include cold therapy to reduce swelling and inflammation, range of motion therapy to help maintain joint health during periods of restricted motion, and massage therapy to help prevent tough scar tissue from developing. If your pet needs professional physical therapy, ask your vet for a referral to North Macomb Canine Rehabilitation and Conditioning.