Broken legs in dogs – Part one; causes and diagnosis.

Dogs, like humans, are just as susceptible to the risk of broken bones.  However, as surprising as it sounds, it isn’t always as easy to spot this in dogs because they tend to have a much higher pain threshold than people and of course, they cannot talk and tell you where it hurts!

More often than not an owner will witness any accident that could lead to a broken or fractured leg in their dog.  However, sometimes this isn’t always the case – the dog may have roamed off on a walk and had an accident, or got into difficulty while alone in the house or garden, or he could even suffer trauma during exercise or engaging in dog sports, such as agility.

Signs and symptoms of broken limbs;

  • Constantly lifting the affected limb.

  • Swelling of the limb or joint.

  • Chronic lameness.

  • Abnormal movement of the limb (or limbs).

  • Grinding sounds in the bone.

It is essential to seek veterinary attention if you suspect your dog might have a broken or fractured limb.  There may be other issues to consider such as internal bleeding or organ injury associated with the trauma of a broken limb, (in the case of a road traffic accident, for instance).  The limbs will need x-rays so that an appropriate treatment can be implemented.

Broken bones are generally classified in one of three ways;

  • Incomplete, or complete fracture – this means that either the fracture has occurred partially around the bone, (incomplete) or has completely broken through the bone, (complete).

  • Transverse or oblique – this is a complete fracture which is either straight across the bone, (transverse) or diagonally across the bone, (oblique).

  • Open or closed fracture – this refers to either a fracture that occurs where the bone breaks through the surface of the skin, (open) or where the break is not associated with any open wound, (closed).

If you suspect your dog has broken his leg, it is essential to take care when transporting him to the vet.  Bear in mind, he may be in acute pain and might be more inclined to bite as a result.  If in doubt, muzzle your dog while you attempt to make him comfortable.  (You can use bandage material to make a makeshift muzzle – tied, not to tightly and crossed over around his snout and then looped around the back of this head).

He may have internal injuries, especially if he has been involved in traffic accident, so try to have two people maneuver your dog and support his weight evenly.  If you see your dog’s leg is misshapen you may want to fashion a splint from a rolled up magazine or cardboard, just to keep the leg still while in transit.  However, DO NOT try to correct the position of the limb.

Once at the vet, your dog will be stablised and his vital signs monitored.  He may be put on an intravenous drip to administer fluids, pain killers and antibiotics.  He may also have a catheter inserted to stop him feeling the need to urinate, which may stress him further.  Your dog will be checked for signs of internal injury and any open wounds cleaned.  It is very likely your dog will need to be sedated to carry out examination and x-rays.

Our next Holidays4Dogs article will focus on broken legs in dogs – part two; treatment and recovery.