Broken Leg in Dogs

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Broken Leg in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Broken Leg in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What is Broken Leg?

Our pets can fracture bones in either their front or back legs. The front leg consists of the radius and ulna (with the radius being the main weight supporting bone), and the humerus (forms the elbow and shoulder). The back leg comprises of the tibia and fibula (shin), and the femur (thigh). If your canine companion has an accident and suffers a broken leg, a veterinarian will need to assess the severity and location of the break.

Another name for a broken bone is a fracture. Dogs are no different than humans in that they can accidentally fracture a leg bone during times of exercise or play. Not all events lead to broken bones; legs can also be dislocated or may have smaller fractures known as hairline fractures (small crack in the bone).

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Broken Leg Average Cost

From 14 quotes ranging from $1,200 - $3,000

Average Cost

$2,000

Symptoms of Broken Leg in Dogs

In many cases, a pet owner will witness the event that leads up to the fracture. Sometimes, though, our pets suffer a broken leg without us knowing it has happened. If your dog exhibits any of the symptoms below, be certain to bring him to the clinic without delay.

  • Abnormal movement of a limb
  • Holding the leg up
  • Swelling in a limb
  • Pain
  • Whining
  • Unwillingness or inability to walk
  • Severe lameness
  • Grinding or popping sounds of bone
  • Bruising

In the case of a serious trauma, there could be other critical issues that are not apparent such as internal bleeding or organ injury. Do not ponder the decision to go the veterinary hospital.

Types

There is a chance that a broken bone, contingent on the type and severity, could be life threatening. If the bone is impacting an organ or causing a part of the body to bleed, complications could quickly develop. The types of broken bones can be classified in a few ways.

  • Incomplete or complete fracture
    • This description means the fracture has occurred partway around the bone (incomplete) or broken through the circumference of the bone (complete).
  • Transverse, oblique or comminuted
    • This is a complete fracture described as transverse (straight across bone), oblique (diagonally across the bone), and comminuted (the break is in three or more pieces)
  • Open or closed fracture
    • If there is a wound in the skin where the fracture is located, it is called 'open'.  If there is no visible wound, it is called 'closed'
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Causes of Broken Leg in Dogs

A break in a dog’s leg can occur when you least expect it. Your dog will be in pain and may be feeling very anxious and frightened. Remain calm as you prepare for the trip to the clinic so as not to upset or excite your dog, which could result in making the situation worse.

  • 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, easier to break)
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Diagnosis of Broken Leg in Dogs

Transport your dog as carefully as possible to the clinic. If the leg break is the result of a vehicular accident, be aware that your pet could have internal injuries. If another family member is at home, have them accompany you, so there is an extra person available in the seat beside your dog, to provide comfort and to keep him from trying to move. Depending on the type of break, you may choose to fashion a splint of sorts to keep the break still. Do not attempt to correct the position of the limb.

When you reach the clinic, the veterinary team will first concentrate on stabilising your pet’s vital signs if needed. The following steps and tools will be used for diagnosis.

  • Intravenous will be initiated if your dog requires it, to begin the use of fluids, pain medication or antibiotics
  • A urinary catheter may be inserted, so your dog does not feel the need to stand to urinate, and so he does not stress about not being able to pass urine
  • The veterinarian will check for organ injury or other signs of trauma
  • Blood work may be done
  • Your dog will most likely be sedated so the veterinary team can do radiographs of the body (leg views to check for the break, abdominal and chest views to verify that the heart and lungs are without complications)
  • An abdominal ultrasound will be done if needed for additional organ analysis
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Treatment of Broken Leg in Dogs

Once your furry family member has been stabilised, the fracture will be attended to. Immobilizing the break in order to ease pain and prevent further damage to muscles, blood vessel and nerves are key. Avoiding further trauma to the break is important, too.

The options will be of a non-surgical or surgical nature. In the case of a simple, closed fracture, a splint or cast may be all that is required for healing. With a cast or splint, emphasis must be placed on keeping the injured area, and it’s covering clean and dry.

Other surgical fixation methods (like metal devices) may be a better choice. The decision will depend on your dog’s age, your home environment (are you home with your dog most of the time?), and your financial options in regards to the method of treatment. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you best on the treatment alternatives.

It is interesting to note the following points about treatment options.

  • A cast may, at first, seem like the most economical choice for treatment
  • However, a cast or splint requires many additional appointments due to evaluations, changes, and possible repairs or replacements
  • The overall healing period may be longer with a cast or splint
  • An external metal fixation device will involve pins being put through the bone to splint it, without entering the body (except for the pins)
  • An internal fixation device will be implanted under the skin and in the bone with the use of screws, pins, wires or plates
  • As a pet owner, you may feel uncomfortable discussing the amputation of a limb, but this is sometimes the best decision when it comes to a severely damaged leg
  • Dogs adapt very quickly to living with three legs
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Worried about the cost of Broken Leg treatment?

Pet Insurance covers the cost of many common pet health conditions. Prepare for the unexpected by getting a quote from top pet insurance providers.

Recovery of Broken Leg in Dogs

The length of hospital stay will depend on the treatment. The stay may range from one day to two weeks.

Home care is a very important part of the recovery process. In the case of a splint or cast, you will need to monitor carefully the condition of the bandage or covering. Looseness can slow healing, and pressure sores could develop. Prevent your dog from licking the cast or pulling on the splint. An Elizabethan collar could be the answer.  Most veterinarians recommend weekly rechecks for splints to monitor for signs of underlying problems.  

In the instance of internal and external fixation devices, there may be a need for the removal of some of the metal device in the future. Your veterinarian will give you all of the information needed as to timing and requirements.

No matter which treatment method was used, follow-up radiographs will be necessary for eight to twelve weeks time so that the break can be re-evaluated.

In the meantime, continue the use of pain medication or antibiotics as prescribed. Do not allow your dog to jump or partake in high impact play. Walking, swimming, and wading in water are beneficial forms of exercise once your veterinarian says the time is right to begin.

She may recommend professional physical therapy such as an underwater treadmill. With the guidance of your veterinary team, you may be asked to do physical therapy at home in the form of ice treatments, flexion of joints, and massage.

Together, you and your veterinarian can have your pet back to walking in due time. Typical recovery length will be four to twelve weeks. The age of your dog will be a factor since younger dogs heal more quickly than older dogs do. The recovery may seem slow, but the prognosis for a broken leg can be good when care and diligence is taken.

Paying to treat a broken leg can be a major financial burden. Fortunately, most pet insurance companies reimburse claims within 3 days, putting 90% of the bill back in your pocket. In the market for pet insurance? Compare leading pet insurance companies to find the right plan for your pet.

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Broken Leg Average Cost

From 14 quotes ranging from $1,200 - $3,000

Average Cost

$2,000

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Broken Leg Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Labrador Retriever

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Two Years

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11 found helpful

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11 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Holding Leg Up

Me my wife and my daughter stayed at a friends last night and we left the dog inside our home! Came home this morning and she was holding her leg up walking on 3 legs! We have stairs in our home so I think that’s what happened to her

Feb. 21, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Maureen M. DVM

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11 Recommendations

Hi, Sorry about that. It is possible that he tripped on something and hurt himself. It could be a soft tissue injury and in serious cases a fracture. To be sure, I would advise taking for a check-up. The vet can verify what it could be and the best treatment option. Good luck

Feb. 21, 2021

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Jack Russell Terrier

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Three Years

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13 found helpful

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13 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Broken Leg

My foot hitter her leg caught in spokesof bike

Dec. 18, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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13 Recommendations

You say 'broken leg' in your title? If you think there may be a break, it is critical we have her seen. She may need treatment such as surgery or a cast. She will also need pain relief to keep her comfortable

Dec. 18, 2020

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Broken Leg Average Cost

From 14 quotes ranging from $1,200 - $3,000

Average Cost

$2,000

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