A bone breaks when it is subjected to a force that is greater than its own strength. Once it is broken, it must be immobilized sufficiently to allow the bone to heal back together. This is where veterinary treatments, like those listed below, are used to ensure quality bone healing and good leg use. External coaptation : a splint or cast ; applied to the outside of the limb; good at resisting bending forces and fair at resisting torsion and compression forces. External fixation : a surgically applied device that is attached to the bone with pins that thread into the bone, but come out through the skin.
This method is very good at resisting bending, compression and torsion forces Figure 4. Internal fixation : surgically applied devices implanted inside the bone or on the surface of the bone. Various devices are available and offer different results against the various forces such as plates, screws, nails, pins, wires Figures 5 and 6. Several factors go into making up a final treatment plan for a fracture. We use this scale of information to come up with the best repair options for an individual pet.
Old Bouncy, active Sick, debilitated Giant or toy size Other injuries. After all is considered, you may be faced with choices for fracture repair; one option might be best for your home environment, time investment, and possible financial constraints. Splints need frequent evaluations and changes and complications may result in a longer overall healing period, whereas some fixation methods improve the chance of successful outcomes without demanding post-operative care.
As a general rule, follow all instructions provided to you by your veterinary surgeon. Some of those instructions may include the following recommendations:. If your pet has splint or cast for final fracture treatment or if a bandage was applied after surgery to help with pain and swelling, careful monitoring and maintenance is necessary for safe and effective bandage wear. Major problems can result from simple bandages; please do not hesitate to call your veterinary surgeon if any problems are noted. Monitor the bandage for slipping or damage from chewing , etc.
If it changes position or becomes wet or loses its integrity, serious problems may occur with healing or new problems with pressure sores may develop. Please call your veterinarian if any changes in bandage position occur; the bandage may need to be replaced. If the end of the bandage is open, check the two central toenails twice daily. They should be close together. If they are spreading apart, this indicates toe swelling which can result in serious complications , and the bandage needs to be assessed by your veterinarian within hours.
Please call your veterinarian if any swelling is noted. The bandage must be kept clean and dry. Place a plastic baggy on the end every time your pet goes outside. Remove the plastic covering when indoors. If the bandage gets wet or you notice any bad odor coming from the bandage, it will need to be evaluated within hours; serious skin problems may develop. If you are concerned about the security or integrity of the bandage, please return to your veterinarian or veterinary surgeon for re-evaluation and re-application as needed.
Please know that bandages and splints can cause very serious complications. They can be an effective treatment tool for fracture healing and pain control, but careful monitoring and appropriate follow-up must occur. Your pet cannot tell you that the bandage hurts or is uncomfortable; you need to be attentive to any change. Confine your pet as directed by your veterinary surgeon; this often includes confining him or her to one section of the house on carpeted floors.
Use baby gates, etc. Confine to a small area, room, or crate when unattended. Do not allow any playing, running, or jumping. For dogs, use a short leash when going outside for bathroom breaks. The best way to confined cats is to have a large dog crate where food and liter can be place. A small room can also serve as a confined are, but cat cats like to jump, so furniture should be removed.
Your pet will feel like fully using the leg before the fracture is sufficiently healed. Please continue the restriction during this time until bone healing has been confirmed with x-rays.
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Failure to do so may cause serious healing problems. Your pet may need assistance to stand and walk in the first few days or weeks following his or her injury. Even if your pet is able to move on his or her own, it is often wise to provide light assistance until he or she is completely stable, especially on slippery surfaces or when going up or down a short flight of stairs.
Dogs will often accept help; cats rarely do.
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Some dogs will fight the assistance and refuse to move. Adjust your efforts as needed to help your pet without creating more difficulties for both of you. Some pets will need to be held up strongly, others will just need light support to prevent slipping or falling to one side. For front leg injuries, a simple sling can be created out of two straps.
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One strap goes under in front of the right leg and comes out behind the left leg; the other strap goes under in front of the left leg and comes out behind the right leg. The straps should cross on the underside of the chest, and you hold all four ends as a handle over the top of the chest. Adjust the strap length to allow you to stand comfortably upright as you assist your pet. Variations on this sling technique can be customized as you see fit.
For back leg injuries, a similar sling can be created out of two narrow straps or one wide band. The two straps can be looped under each back leg and held up like you are pulling on a pair of pants; adjust the length of the straps to allow you to stand comfortably as you assist. Alternatively, the wide band of cloth can be used as a sling under the belly from one side to the other just in front of the back legs. You may find some of these products online and are definitely easier to use. When a bone is fractured, many things happen that make a leg function poorly over the fracture healing period.
Muscles, nerves and blood vessels are damaged; the result is pain and poor muscle function.
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When a leg is not used for several days to weeks, joints stiffen up, muscles get smaller, and bone healing is delayed as well. Physical therapy during fracture healing uses methods aimed at improving comfort and leg use without harming bone healing. Some of the simpler methods can be used at home; the more advanced techniques are used by veterinary physical therapists under the guidance of your veterinary surgeon.
Bone healing is dependent upon some of the same factors listed in the chart above. Young dog and cat bones heal faster than old dog and cat bones. Bones that have lots of muscle and blood vessel tissues disrupted from the trauma heal slower than bones surrounded by healthy tissues. Bones that are repaired with minimal surgical trauma no or small surgical incision heal faster than those with a lot of surgical trauma.
These facts are why we consider all of these factors when choosing repair options. Your veterinary surgeon should be able to tell you what to expect with healing. As a general statement, fractures need a minimum of 4 weeks in young puppies and 8 weeks in older animals to heal sufficiently and begin to progress to normal activities. It is a long months when the sun is shining and the squirrels are asking to be chased; just know that catastrophe can happen if the fracture repair is stressed too soon.
But fractures do heal and bones can resume near normal shape and strength. With close attention and appropriate follow-up and physical therapy, our broken pets can return to completely normal lives. Any opinions stated in this article are not necessarily the official position of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons.
The American College of Veterinary Surgeons recommends contacting an ACVS board-certified veterinary surgeon or your general veterinarian for more information about this topic. Your feedback helps us make the Animal Health topics serve you better. Please note that submissions to this form are not monitored by a board-certified surgeon.
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For questions about your animal's specific condition, please contact an ACVS board-certified surgeon in your area. Veterinary Surgery Journal. The ribs are the cage-like bones in the chest cavity that protect the lungs and heart. Several layers of muscle connect the ribs to each other. The severity of broken ribs can vary. Although painful, a hairline fracture in one of these bones is not usually anything to worry about and will often heal without treatment.
However, it is not uncommon for people to have more than one broken rib at the same time. Blunt trauma, such as from an automobile accident, is the most common cause of serious rib fractures. In this article, learn about the symptoms of a broken rib, as well as how doctors diagnose and treat them. We also discuss the recovery process. A simple broken rib usually means that a person has a hairline fracture in one of the rib bones in the chest.
The sharp end of a displaced broken rib may puncture the lung, for example. This complication is called pneumothorax. Sometimes, part of the rib can break off completely and "float," or move independently in the chest. When someone breaks three or more ribs in two or more places, it can lead to a serious condition called flail chest.
People with flail chest will find it hard to breathe and need immediate medical attention.
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Severe coughing can also cause a rib fracture. These stress fractures tend to occur in the upper or middle ribs. Some people are more susceptible to broken ribs, including older adults and those with health conditions that affect the bones, such as osteoporosis or osteopenia. To diagnose a rib fracture, a doctor will usually look for signs of bleeding or bruising during a physical examination.