If your pup breaks a bone, it is going to be a scary experience for both you and your dog. Our Santa Barbara vets explain how to handle these situations so you can get your pup the help they need.
Identifying a Break
When a dog breaks a bone, it is usually quite obvious. A majority of the time the bone will fracture through the skin and can be rather messy.
However, some broken bones occur internally and never break through the skin. If you notice your dog whining when a certain part of their body is touched, if there is unexplained swelling in a certain location, or if they refuse to walk or put weight on a certain leg no matter what, they may have a broken bone.
Our dogs are part of the family and we don't want anything to happen to them. Unfortunately, just like us, they can fall ill and sustain physical injuries. Bone breaks in dogs are probably more common than you might think, but the first step any pet parent can do in this situation is to remain calm.
This will be a painful and frightening time for your dog and they will be relying on you to get the help they need. As their parent, you need to be able to stay calm enough to efficiently and effectively get them to an emergency care veterinary hospital and into the hands of a vet immediately.
How You Can Help
Call an Emergency Vet Immediately
If you think your dog has broken a bone, it will need to be assessed and treated by a professional right away. Your vet will likely schedule an emergency visit but realize that you may still need to wait a while to be seen if the vet is booked up for the day.
Write down as much information as you can remember about the cause of the broken bone. Your vet may have a better understanding of the injury or other possible injuries if you can inform them how it may have occurred (fell, struck by an object, etc.).
Don't Play Veterinarian
Do not try to set or splint the bone, and do not try to put any creams, ointments, sprays, etc. on the injury. If you try to help by doing any of these, your dog may become more agitated and could bite due to the pain.
If your dog is bleeding significantly, you may need to wrap the injury carefully with a clean piece of cloth and apply pressure to stop the bleeding. Your dog may need to be muzzled for you to do this as, again, the pain might cause them to bite.
You can also cover them in a blanket to keep them warm and as comfortable as they can be given the circumstances.
Get Help Moving Your Dog
When you first notice the injury, you will want to relocate your pup inside to a safe and quiet if they aren't already.
You are also going to need to get your dog into your vehicle to transport them to the vet.
In both scenarios, if possible, get some help moving your dog (especially larger breeds). You want to move your pup as carefully and stably to avoid additional injury or discomfort. You may also want to have another person with you on your way to the vet to keep them company and help however they can
Relocating your dog after they break a bone will be painful for them, so again, be cautious and think about using a muzzle.
What the Vet Will Do
The vet will assess your dog's state and the extent of its injuries. Based on many variables, the vet will suggest either having the bone repaired, setting the bone, or in very severe cases, amputating the limb.
Very likely, your dog will 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 given pain control during this process.
Your dog will need a series of medications, including anti-inflammatory medication, pain control, antibiotics, and more. This will help the wound heal and will also prevent infections throughout the process.
The Recovery Process
After your dog’s bone has been repaired, it will need quite a bit of time to recover. Your dog will be fitted for a cast and may require physical therapy to get back to normal.
Your dog should refrain from running, jumping, or playing until they have healed. However, it should be walked and exercised gently according to the requests of your vet and/or physical therapist.
Your vet may also instruct you to place cold packs on the injury or regularly provide a gentle massage. If your vet tells you to do these things, be sure to keep up with them as they can influence recovery time and effectiveness. However, if you aren’t told to try these treatments by your vet, then it’s best to just let the bone heal on its own.
It will likely take a couple of months for your dog’s broken bone to heal. Depending on the severity of the injury, the cast may require more or less time.
With the cast on, your dog will likely also need a cone (e-collar) to prevent them from licking or chewing on the cast. While this may make your pup unhappy, it is critical to prevent damage to the cast or having them eat something that they should not.
Your dog will not be happy about wearing a cast as they start to feel better, so spend extra time making them feel as comfortable as possible.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.