Most fractures are caused by automobile accidents and falls from a height.
The bones most commonly broken are the femur, pelvis, skull, jaw, and spine.
Fractures are classified as open or closed. In an open fracture (also called a
compound fracture), a wound exposes the bone. Often the bone is seen sticking
through the skin. These fractures are
contaminated by dirt and bacteria and thus are accompanied by a high rate of
Signs of bone fracture include pain, swelling, inability to bear weight, and
deformity with shortening of the affected leg.
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Treatment: Injuries that cause fractures can also cause shock, blood loss,
and trauma to internal organs. Controlling shock takes precedence over treating
in pain is often uncooperative and may bite in self-defense. Take precautions
to avoid being bitten. If necessary, muzzle the dog.
Open wounds over bones should be covered with a sterile
dressing, using several gauze pads, if available. If you cannot get gauze pads,
cover the wound with a clean cloth or towel and wrap loosely. If there is
continued bleeding, carefully apply pressure to the site.
Splinting fractures relieves pain and prevents shock and further tissue
damage while the dog is being transported to the veterinary hospital. The
decision to splint is based on a number of factors, including the severity and
location of the injury, the time it will take to get professional help,
the presence of other injuries, and the availability of materials. Note that
improper splinting can cause more harm than good. Do not attempt to splint the
leg if the dog resists.
Always splint the limb in the position in which you find it. Do not attempt
to straighten a crooked leg.
An effective splint is one that crosses the joints above and below the
fracture. When the fracture is below the knee or elbow, fold a magazine, a
newspaper, or a piece of thick cardboard around the leg. A cardboard roll, such
as for paper towels or toilet paper, may work if you slit it open. Extend the
splint from the toes to a point well above the knee or elbow. Hold the splint
in place by wrapping it with a roll of gauze, a necktie, or tape. Do not wrap
Fractures above the elbow and knee are difficult to splint. The best way to
prevent further damage is to keep the dog as still as possible.
Dogs in shock should be transported lying down, either on a flat surface or
in a hammock stretcher, to facilitate breathing and prevent a drop in blood
pressure. Head injuries and spinal cord injuries require
special handling and transport.
Fractures where the ends of bones are at angles or far apart must be reduced
under general anesthesia by a veterinarian, to bring the ends together and
realign the bone. This is accomplished by pulling on the leg to overcome the
muscular forces causing the displacement. Once reduced, the position of the
bones must be maintained. In most dogs, with fractures above the knee or elbow
the position is held with pins and metal plates, while fractures below the knee
or elbow are immobilized with splints and casts. Fractures involving joints
usually require open surgery and repair with pins, screws, and wire.
Displaced jaw fractures cause malposition of the teeth. The jaw should be adjusted and the teeth wired
together to maintain the correct position until healing is complete.
Depressed skull fractures may require surgery to elevate the depressed