Fractures in Dogs and Cats

Pets, like people, can break bones from time to time.  There are different types of fractures. They can be a result of motor vehicle trauma, falling or jumping from heights or being accidentally stepped on by humans.  Occasionally, pathological fractures can occur due to poor health of the bone with conditions such as osteoporosis or bone cancer; however, this type of fracture will not be discussed here.

Fractures are very, very painful and it is important to take your pet to a vet as soon as they occur.  They may not be operated on immediately, but strong pain relief is required as a minimum treatment.  Pets that have suffered trauma may also have other injuries such as wounds and damage to internal organs, so they should be checked over to ensure they are breathing properly and not losing large amounts of blood.  As well as pain relief, the vet may want to stabilize the pet if he or she is in shock following trauma.  Stabilization may involve IV fluids, oxygen therapy and antibiotics, among other things.  If the fracture is an ‘open fracture’, this is treated as an emergency and is usually cleaned and bandaged immediately.

With regards to specific treatment for the fracture, the vet will usually start with X-rays to visualize the type of fracture and position of the bone fragments.  Fractures of the pelvis or skull may be imaged using a CT scanner as X-rays do not always help us view all parts of these bones.  These images will help the vet decide what the best plan of stabilization is for the fracture while it heals.

Most fractures require surgery, and implants such as pins, plates and screws are placed to hold the bones in alignment while the fracture heals.  Some very stable fractures and ‘greenstick’ fractures may not require surgery and a cast may be sufficient. However, it is important to have the cast checked regularly by the vet.  Most fractures take between 6 to 12 weeks to heal and the pet is usually required to be strictly confined during this time.  Fracture stabilization surgery can be expensive, but in most cases it is rewarding and results in a happy, healthy pet.

Did your pet ever have a fracture? How did your veterinarian treat it?

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