At Cherrydown Vets one of the reasons pets are bought in to us is because of breaks or fractures to their bones. It could be because of a car accident, a high fall, fighting, over exuberance or something more serious like bone cancer. There are two types of fractures, open and closed. An open fracture is when the bone breaks and pierces through the skin. A closed fracture is where the bone has broken but does not break the skin.
If your pet has had a heavy fall or an accident there are some things you can look out for to see if there is anything broken.
- Your pet may hold the broken limb in an abnormal position
- The limb will become very swollen
- There may be an open wound with bone sticking through it.
- You pet may be limping or is reluctant to put any weight on a particular limb
- Your pet may hold up their limb and not put any weight on it at all
- Your pet may not want the limb touched by anyone
Bones consist of an outer, hard portion known as the cortex and an inner area known as the marrow. A fracture can range from a simple hairline fracture with little displacement of the bone to complex fractures where the bone has shattered into many pieces. If a fracture has taken place at a joint it can be even more serious.
If you believe your pet has fractured a bone you should take them to the vets immediately so they can be x-rayed. When the vet can see how serious the break is they can advise on the best course of action.
When it comes to transporting the animal, try to minimise movement of the affected area. If the bone is exposed cover with a clean, damp towel to protect the wound. Also, be careful when moving your pet. No matter how friendly and soft they are, when animals are scared or in pain they may bite. If you have a dog it may be worth putting a muzzle on them.
The vet will do a thorough examination of the fracture and will also check for any other injuries. Once they have all the relevant information they will be able to decide what to do next. Each fracture is different but generally there are two types of treatment, depending on the fracture. The vet may recommend internal or external stabilisation.
External stabilisation – If your pet has a hairline fracture or something minor, the vet may choose to use splints, casts or padded bandages to keep everything in place.
Internal stabilisation – This involves surgery and your pet will be anesthetised It can be anything from inserting a metal pin lengthwise into the centre of the bone (like an internal splint) to metal plates, pins, screws and wires to hold together various pieces of bone or to fix a joint. If it is a serious fracture your vet may refer you to an Orthopaedic Specialist.
There is no strict rule on the amount of time it can take to heal a fracture but generally, the younger the animal the sooner it will take. You need to make sure you limit the amount of exercise your pet does during the healing process to ensure the bones stay aligned. If your pet has too much activity it could refracture the bone and delay the healing or your pet could have a deformed limb due to stress on a weakened bone. During the healing period your vet may take further x-rays to ensure it’s healing properly and let you know when your pet’s limb is back to normal.
If you have any questions about this subject please call us at the clinic and someone will be able to discuss this with you. Alternatively, you can post your question on our Facebook page.