Skip to main content

Fractures and your Pets

By November 19, 2020 Uncategorized

6 Common Puppy Fractures

Puppies love to play, and we love to play with them. While playtime is very important for growing puppies, the level of play and exercise should be appropriate for them. Inappropriate exercise can lead to injuries, including broken (fractured) bones.

While you might think puppies are resilient and strong, their bones are actually fragile. Dogs’ bones reach maximum strength after puberty. Less dense bones, accordingly, mean more potential for fractures.

Signs that a puppy has fractured a bone may include obvious things like limping or not using one leg. Other, not so obvious, signs might be swelling of the injured area or pain such as guarding the injury, crying, not playing, or not eating. If your puppy displays such signs, it is always important to seek help from your veterinarian or the emergency clinic immediately, as things can worsen as time passes.

Your veterinarian will start with a thorough physical examination. A sedative may be necessary, as puppies may find it difficult to sit still, especially when in pain. X-rays will confirm that a bone is fractured, and show how complex the fracture is. Depending on the severity of the fracture, the repair may involve various techniques and implants. While some fractures may require only a splint to heal properly, others may need pins, plates and screws. Below are some of the more common fractures seen in puppies.

Learn more here.

Bone Fractures in Dogs & Puppies

Bone Fractures in Dogs & Puppies

As responsible pet parents, we all try to protect our beloved dogs from injury. Sometimes accidents happen, and all we can do is help them recover. Bone fractures are very common injuries among dogs of all ages. Learn to recognize the signs of fractures, how to treat them, and how to prevent them.

There are several different types of fractures. The first sign of an injury is a sudden yelp or cry. Your dog may limp or refuse to bear weight on the affected leg.

  1. 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 are all likely clinical signs. Seek veterinary attention and try to keep your pet as still as possible to prevent the fracture from worsening.
  2. Greenstick fracture: In these cases, the bone is cracked but not broken. There may be minor swelling and limping, and you should still see a vet for assessment and appropriate splinting. Improper healing can result in lameness and reduced mobility of the joint.
  3. Compound (Open) fracture: This is the most dangerous type of fracture because the bone has penetrated the skin. This puts the dog at high risk for infection since bacteria can easily enter the open wound. Bleeding, swelling, and visible bone will be seen.
  4. Epiphyseal fracture: These fractures occur most commonly in young dogs because their bones are still growing. The break happens on the soft area of the bone, known as the growth plate. This can result in the affected leg being shorter than the non-affected legs due to a damaged growth plate. Your veterinarian can repair the fracture to allow for minimal growth defects.

If your dog is exhibiting signs of pain, such as limping or vocalizing, it is important to seek immediate veterinary care. 

Surgical Pins and Plates in Cats
Surgical Pins and Plates in Cats

What is a fracture?

Fracture is the term used to describe a broken bone. There are many different types of fractures, named according to the location of the fracture, how complex the injury is, and whether or not the pieces pierce through the skin.

How are fractures treated?

A better understanding of the theory and practice of fracture repair has resulted in an improved level of care for the cat with a fractured (broken) leg. It is now possible to repair the vast majority of fractures that a cat may suffer as the result of a traumatic incident.  The main objectives of fracture repair are to promote rapid healing of the fracture and to get the cat using its leg as quickly as possible. In most cases, this involves rebuilding the broken bone and fixing it in that position with metallic implants.

The most common methods of fixation of fractures include:

1)  placing a stainless steel pin in the marrow cavity of the affected bone,

2)  plating the bone in position with a plate screwed to the outside of the bone OR

3)  using an external fixator, which involves placing several short stainless steel pins vertically into the bone fragments, and connecting these pins on the outside of the leg using metal bars and clamps.

The decision as to which technique is used depends on a number of factors:

  • the type of fracture your cat has suffered
  • what equipment your veterinarian or surgeon has available
  • other injuries your cat may have suffered to other limbs
  • the age of your cat
  • the temperament of your cat
  • financial considerations

How are fractures diagnosed?

If your cat has sustained a fracture, it will normally be unable to bear weight or stand on the affected limb. Usually, a fracture is painful. There may be soft tissue swelling in the region of the fracture. Your veterinarian will be able to detect if there is a fracture by looking for pain, swelling and a grinding sensation between the ends of the broken bones. An x-ray will be used to confirm the diagnosis and search for additional injuries.

If there are no additional injuries, your veterinarian will use the x-ray of the fractured limb to determine which method of fixation to use. After the fracture has been repaired, another x-ray will be taken to assess how well the pieces of bone have been rejoined. The x-ray will also document the exact placement of all of the pins and/or plates.

What post-operative care does my cat need?

After a fracture has been repaired, your veterinarian will normally hospitalize your cat for a few days to ensure that there are no immediate post-operative complications such as surgical site infections, movement of the surgical implants or other problems.  Immediately after the fracture has been repaired a soft bandage may be placed on the fractured limb to provide a small degree of additional support and to minimize any swelling of the soft tissues surrounding the fracture. On rare occasions, it may be necessary to put the limb in a rigid cast; however, this is generally avoided. Antibiotics will often be prescribed to help prevent infection in the fracture site. In addition to this, since fractures and the repair associated with them will give the cat a degree of pain and discomfort, pain relief medications will be used during the postoperative period.

Some cats will not eat very well while hospitalized and can lose weight. Inadequate nutrition can lead to slow fracture healing. To promote optimal healing, your veterinarian will discharge your cat as soon as it is safe to do so.

For the first several days, your cat may need to have strict cage rest. Depending on the actual fracture repair, your veterinarian may recommend confinement in a small area such as a bedroom to allow your cat some limited mobility. In general, it is more desirable to let the cat exercise in a small room while closely supervised as opposed to strict immobilization in a cage. Physical activity minimizes muscle loss on the fracture limb, reduces the chance of long-term joint immobility and speeds healing of the fracture.

The length of time your cat will require confinement and activity restriction depends on the following factors:

  • the age of your cat – younger cats heal more quickly than older cats
  • if your cat has a pre-existing illness that may delay healing, such as chronic kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, etc.
  • the type of fracture your cat has suffered
  • the type of fixation used
  • how quickly your cat starts to use its leg effectively after surgery
  • the x-ray appearance of the fracture after a period of time has elapsed

Once your veterinarian is satisfied that the fracture has healed adequately, you will be advised that exercise restriction is no longer required. It may be necessary to remove some or all of the metal implants used in the fracture repair once healing is fully complete. Your veterinarian will decide if this is necessary. Most pins and plates can safely remain in the cat for life if the situation requires that they be left in place.

What is the long-term prognosis for my cat?

Most fractures can be repaired very effectively and in many cases, your cat will resume normal activity levels within three to four months after repair. However, if the original fracture involved a joint, some lameness, decreased range of motion (ROM), stiffness, or arthritis may develop over time.

Leave a Reply