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A Broken Leg in Dogs

dog with cast on leg

We want the best for our dogs and when they’re in pain – so are we. A broken leg in dogs is something not to treat on your own. This article will explain more of how it happens, how it is diagnosed, the treatment methods, and home care. You will also learn more of what to expect and what you can do to make your dog as comfortable as possible.

How Does a Broken Bone Happen?

Usually you will know if your dog has broken a bone. Although sometimes you may not be around when it happens. There are various reasons why a broken bone can happen, including trauma. Here are a few factors according to Wag Walking:

  • Vehicular trauma
  • Play and exercise Sports
  • Underlying disease Diet (too much phosphorus or Vitamin A, not enough calcium)
  • Bone cancer Inherited collagen defect (weakens bones)
  • Falls
  • Age (young bones are not fully formed)
  • Breed (toy breeds have tiny bones, easy to break)

What Are the Symptoms?

Not every broken bone is apparent. Sometimes a dog can have a hairline fracture and not seem to be in immediate pain. In fact, hairline fractures happen often due to the longer bones taking most of the weight. These are the front legs. In the back, those can be injured due to impact or trauma.

There are also what is known as an open fracture. In this case, you will see the visible bone and broken skin. In open fractures, it is imperative to seek help because it is easy for infection to take hold. In a closed fracture, you will not be able to see an outward sign of the break.

Some dogs also dislocate bones and these typically take place in the hips, shoulder, or elbows.

Of course if your dog has an open fracture it is easy to spot and treat. For those that are less obvious, here are some signs according to Canna Pet:

The leg may look as though it is twisted or turned at an awkward angle, and you may start to see swelling right away. Your dog may exhibit other signs that indicate something is wrong, such as whining, howling, or whimpering, moving their leg in a way that isn’t normal, or holding one leg up if they do attempt to walk. You might see bruising of the area in addition to the swelling, and you may even notice your dog’s leg bone make a grinding or popping sound.

If your dog is in pain, there may be signs like isolation or refusing to eat. The dog may hide or whimper.

How is a Broken Bone in Dogs Diagnosed?

Before you get to the vet, try to keep the dog as still as possible without further injuring its bone. Don’t try to do any setting yourself and try to keep the dog calm until you can get professional help.

The three things that need to happen is for the dog to be stabilized, treat the pain, and reduce the chance of infection. A visit to the vet will mean that he may do blood work, look for internal injuries, take x-rays, and possibly an ultrasound. During this time the dog may be sedated to keep it from being in pain while the vet does his work.

In some cases, the dog may need a temporary catheter in order to relieve weight on the injured area when using the bathroom. If needed, the vet can set the break so that it heals properly. Some dogs need surgery but this is in more extreme cases.

There are different ways of setting the bone and again, this depends on how bad the break is. If it is a minor break then a cast is required and these are typical in closed fractures.

Other times, if the break is more severe, there metal devices that use pins, screws, wires, and metal plates attached to the bone to help stabilize the injury.

In a worst-case scenario, if the trauma is too great for the dog’s quality of life then euthanasia may be considered. This is the humane treatment in only the worst cases of trauma.

Caring for Your Dog at Home

There are a few things that you can do to ensure your dog gets healthy as fast as possible and with the least amount of pain.

Make sure that you see your vet for all follow-up visits and be sure to give your dog all of his medicine. Whether it is pain pills or antibiotics to prevent infection, it is crucial that your dog completes any medication regimen.

Healing a broken bone can take four to six weeks and your dog may need help getting around during that time. Whether it is going out to relieve himself or eating dinner, some dogs may need carrying from place to place. There are also rehabilitative measures that the vet may recommend such as flexing the joints, massaging the affected area, or even icing down the affected area.

We realize that vet bills can be expensive, especially during an emergency. The best way to find pet insurance is to compare each one for what works for your needs.

Keep in mind that once your dog starts to heal, he may want to be more active by playing, jumping, or running. It is best to discuss the time flow with your vet to be sure that your dog is ready for physical activity and won’t re-injure the broken bone.

Cost to Treat: $200 to $5,000


There’s no 100% way to protect your dog from accidents and broken bones. However, if you have pet health insurance you can protect yourself from an expensive vet hospital bill.

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