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What is Casting and Splinting?

Casts are a form of external immobilization, custom-made to conform to the injured extremity or entire body of the canine. The casts lie in close contact with the skin, made of several layers of padding and plaster. However, other materials may be used to create a cast, including polyurethane-impregnated cotton-polyester, fiberglass, or thermal plastics. 

A splint is a rigid material used to aid in immobilization and support of a not yet set bone. The same materials used to construct casts can be used in splint creation, but thermal plastic is commonly used as it possesses the ability for reuse. Ready-made splints of aluminum or plastic are also commonly used for fractures, and are easily applied.

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Casting and Splinting Procedure in Dogs

Casting 

Casting is conducted using aseptic technique, meaning the method used to complete a cast is designed to prevent microorganism contamination. The dog may be anesthetized and the affected area may be shaved prior to the procedure. 

The following describes casting technique used on a foreleg fracture:

  1. The dog is placed in lateral recumbency (lying on the side) with the injured extremity facing down. 
  2. A stirrup is creating as tape is applied to the ventral and dorsal aspects of the foot. The leg is elevated and supported to maintain the elevated position for casting. 
  3. A stockinette bandage may be applied if deemed necessary. 
  4. Padding is applied to the elevated leg. Padding underneath the cast consists of layers that are wound tightly around the leg, starting from the distal to proximal aspects of the leg. Several layers will be applied. 
  5. The cast material is rolled around the leg, from distal to proximal limb aspects, overlapping itself on each encirclement. Several layers may be applied. 
  6. Wet plaster is then placed atop of the casting material and conformed to the unique shape of the leg. A slight flexion is placed in the plaster on the carpus to prevent a valgus deformity as the bone heals. 
  7. Visible padding at both ends of the cast are turned downward and taped over the stirrup to aid in position maintenance of the cast. 
  8. Plaster will take several hours to dry, therefore, the canine will be hospitalized overnight prior to release. 

Splinting

Splints are not total encircling devices, but aid in early immobilization when a fracture is accompanied by a great deal of swelling. 

In splinting of a foreleg fracture, strips of plaster run down the cranial and caudal aspects, bound together by a tape or elastic gauze. Splint material is chosen according the size of the dog and length of the limb. The strips are laid on the dressing table and plaster is made wet. 

  1. The wet strips are placed on the affected leg, starting from the toe to the elbow. 
  2. Uniform distance is maintained between the cranial and caudal aspects, then gauze is wrapped in a circular motion around the plaster. 
  3. The splint is flexed to conform to the natural bend in the extremity and tape is applied for security. 

Efficacy of Casting and Splinting in Dogs

Surgically treated fractures will heal approximately 97% of the time without complications of serious nature. The rate of healing can be as low as 50% to 95% depending on whether or not the canine is experiencing secondary complications (swelling, infection). Casting and splinting conducted by a veterinary or orthopedic veterinary profession will result in permanent fixation of the affected skeleton.

Casting and Splinting Recovery in Dogs

Pain medication is the norm for send-home drug therapy after a casting or splinting endeavor. However, antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs are also prescribed in cases of secondary damage caused by the injury (swelling or infection). 

The at-home care provided by the pet owner accounts for approximately 50% of recovery. Limbs that have been casted must be checked twice daily for effective circulation. Cold, swollen, or blue tinged toes indicate a problem and must be addressed immediately. The cast must stay impeccably clean and dry, to prevent infection. Dirty, damp or odorous casts must be changed immediately. 

Check-ups with the veterinarian and total recovery time lies dependent on the injury type. Several months of recovery time are to be expected.

Cost of Casting and Splinting in Dogs

Casting and splinting can be an expensive, yet highly effective treatment for fracture or breaks. The average cost to cast or splint an extremity is approximately $2,000, but total body casts can average up to $5,000. Ask your veterinarian about the price deemed appropriate, as prices vary depending on the condition and veterinarian.

Dog Casting and Splinting Considerations

The risks of using a cast or splint are limited in the veterinary clinic, as most risks are present at home. Improper care can pose a risk of infection, loss of circulation, necrotic tissues and delayed healing time. If the extremity was casted properly, the benefits reach the treatment goal of fixating the fractured or broken limb.

Casting and Splinting Prevention in Dogs

The need of casting or splinting for dogs can be prevented by taking basic safety measures. Fenced in yards, the use of a leash and keeping an eye on your dog will prevent the majority of skeletal injuries from occurring. Blunt force traumas, hit-by-car accidents, falls, and fights are the most commonly reported causes of casting needs.

Casting and Splinting Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Rolo
hound mix
3 Years
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

limping. Have not seen sore as th

My dog was limping 12 weeks ago. A visit to the vet resulted in a broken toe diagnosis and a cast for 12 weeks. There were no vet visits in these 12 weeks. The cast was removed yesterday, and now the dog has a large pressure sore and is on antibiotics and needs dressing changes at the vet every 3 days. I feel terribly for my pet and feel that some sort of monitoring should have been performed.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2740 Recommendations
A cast may stay on a limb for several weeks as long as there is no sign of any issues with the cast; occasionally when a cast is removed there is pressure or rubbing sores which may need to be treated separately from the original problem. When a limb is in a cast, it is not possible to take it off and check the limb and put it back on; most of the time there are no issues but some dogs do get sores. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

My puppy is in a cast for a fracture. It was recommended to return once a week to have the dressing changed. The cast will be cut off and reused each time. The first time under sedation. I thought this seemed excessive, and overly preccautious. Our dog did have an abrasion on his skin over the break site.

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luna
Hound
9 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

excessive panting, limping

Medication Used

ostilox

My dog (9 yr old hound, 65 lbs) was running loose in a field and either tripped or stepped in a hole. Her ankle has been swollen since then, though less so each day. We took her to the vet who suggested we bring her back to be splinted if things didn't improve within a week. We've kept her at very limited movement and she does better for a few days and then moves too much and strains it again. I don't have the money to splint her and I am wondering if purchasing a dog splint (hard plastic with velcro) would be a wise alternative. Thank you.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2740 Recommendations
I can only recommend rest as I cannot assure you that the specific splint you buy will be suitable or not as some rub on the skin and may cause other issues; movement restriction is best using a crate or small room to prevent bursts of energy. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Subr
German Shepherd
1 Year
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Hurt leg

Medication Used

Acepromazine

My dog broke his front left arm about 2 months ago. We've been in both splints and casts for the last 2 months, my dog had a problem keeping his cast on as it kept falling off his arm. The doctors did follow up radiographs and saw that his radius bones had formed the proper callus for support and his Ulna was forming fibrous bone so they said it would be beneficial for us to go without the cast to help the healing process by applying slight pressure to the bone. My dog has been kennel rested for the last two months strictly except for to go potty. He's been doing fine without the cast with applying pressure on his leg and walking however we're now three weeks out.. the suggested time from our vet and I just noticed on his last potty outing he's choosing to lift his leg now and put less pressure on it than he's been doing. He doesn't seem in pain at all and he still walks on it but I noticed he's applying less pressure. Does anyone have suggestions?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2740 Recommendations
This is something to keep an eye on since during recovery, some days may be more painful or uncomfortable than others; if you notice that he is keeping his leg held up for a few days and not a one off you should return to your Veterinarian for another examination and possibly an x-ray to ensure that everything is healing as expected. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Latke
Yorkshire Terrier
11 Years
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Limping

My dog Latke injured his back leg jumping from the sofa . The vet put a splint for 10 days and the took it yesterday . He put his leg in the floor but sometimes he limps again . He didn’t have a fracture . How many days after taking the splint he’ll be walking fine . He was taking Loxicom . Thanks

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2740 Recommendations
There isn’t a set number of days until complete recover since each injury is different; the specific site of the injury (joint, ligament etc…) and the severity will determine the overall recovery. You should ensure that Latke is rested and doesn’t run or jump which may delay his recovery time. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Dolce
Welsh Corgi
1 Year
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Limping
Pain
Lifted leg
Swelling

My one year old corgi has a broken p3 bone on his weight bearing left back toe. At first the vet said that there was no need for a splint or bandage and this usually heals on its own. However, I wasnt convinced and got a second opnion. The second vet gave her a splint and wrapped her foot in a splint and stretchable wrapping. The vet warned me that it wouldnt stay on because my dog will most likely take it off. He was correct and my dog takes off his splint at least twice daily. I have been rewrapping her foot myself and had the vet rewrap once yesterday. I just recreated what I saw my vet do, but I am not sure if I am doing it properly. One vet said that I did not need a splint and the other said I did. I did notice a bit of swelling after the vet rewrapped yesterday as my dog took off the splint this morning. She seems to be limping and holding her foot up everytime she walks. I restrict her activity, but she walks around for a few minutes a day. What should I do? Is it right for me to keep rewrapping her splint? Is it best to take it off all together? I cant keep going to the vet everytime she takes it off because its multiple times a day. Will my dogs toe heal properaly without a splint? How long should I keep the splint on for? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2740 Recommendations
It would be best to splint if the toe is weight bearing, however some dogs will just continue to remove any splint and dressing placed on them; but you cannot put it on tighter as it would restrict blood flow to the paw which would lead to pawing. It may be worth (I know it isn’t pleasant) but think about having it redone by your Veterinarian and placing a cone on Dolce to prevent any biting of the dressing as well as restricting movement for a few weeks. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

I just found out today that Dolce has a sore on her paw from the splint and the vet recommended that we just take the splint off all together. He said that if Dolce isnt in any pain it should be fine. We did put a cone on her, but she found that shaking her leg will help the splint loosen and slip and after a while fall off. Should I still continue to splint it? Is it true that the splint wont do much?

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Diesel
Rottweiler
1 Year
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Hurt leg

What should I do when my dog hurt his leg? He can't walk and is just laying down. I don't know what to do with him and I'm very worried about him. My parents found him and he was perfectly fine in the morning but at night my dad found him with his leg all dislocated.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2740 Recommendations

Firstly, do not wrap or splint his leg as many times owners will wrap too tight and cause more harm than good; in many cases, movement restriction is the best course of action with a visit to your Veterinarian if there is no improvement over two days. If you are suspecting that the leg is dislocated or broken, you should visit your Veterinarian immediately. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Chapo
mix terrier
7 Years
Fair condition
-1 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Limping

Hello all,

My boy (7-8 years old) broke his toe (left fifth metacarpal) 8 weeks ago. He was in splint bandages for 8 weeks. Yesterday, we took it off and the doctor said it looked like it's healed from the x rays but this morning we got a call saying that the radiologist saw a "mild malunion with unknown clinical significance". We were also told the bone is healing but not fully healed. So, he's back in splint bandages for 4 more weeks now.

The vet said, most likely it won't affect his walk due to the location of the broken bone (toe, not a major bone) but the vet wanted me to prepare me for the worst scenario.

How will this affect my dog;s walk? What are the chances of this causing him a permanent limp?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2740 Recommendations
The malunion was referred by the Radiologist of having unknown significance, I cannot comment on the severity or possible issues which may occur from this due to a lack of information. Your Veterinarian would be able to tell you more. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Coco
Yorkshire Terrier
3 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Break

Hi there.
My dog yorkie 3 years old broke her right front leg,both the radius and ulna.
She has been put in a temporary cast and will be seen by a specialist by the end of the week.
My question is that, is there a huge risk in getting a cast instead of surgery(as we cannot afford)??
As i have read that there may be deformities.

Thank you

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1251 Recommendations
Whether Coco can have a cast or surgery depends on the severity of the break. Some dogs heal very well with a splint or cast, and the downsides to that treatment are that it is is higher maintenance (the cast needs to be rechecked very frequently to make sure that there aren't any problems developing with it) and the bones may not heal perfectly. It would be a good idea to see the specialist, let them know that you would prefer a less expensive alternative, and get their opinion on how she would do with a splint or cast vs. surgical repair. They'll be able to give you all options, as they can see her, and the x-rays.

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Nova
Mix
13 Months
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Limping

I wrapped my dogs leg because he wouldnt walk on it and I dont have money for the vet. His leg was swollen so I wrapped it. I feel heat coming from the wrap. How can I tell if I wrapped it correctly?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1251 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. Without seeing him, I cannot tell if the wrap is wrapped well or not. I can tell you that i have seen dogs lose limbs due to badly wrapped legs. It would be best to have him seen by your veterinarian, find out why he isn't walking and what can be done, and have appropriate care gicen to your dog. There are many veteirnary clinics that offer a 'free first exam', and most clinics offer careCredit finding. No veterinarian wants to see Nova suffer, and the consequences of a badly wrapped leg can be much worse than a veterinary visit. I would highly suggest going to see a veterinarian, and taking off the wrap, as soon as possible.

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Jacki
Boxer
10 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Pain

My dog had a splint put on yesterday. She spent most of the night panting and Yelp barking every so often. She is eating and drinking, as well as going potty. She is on a NSAIDs. My question is it’s now the weekend and I won’t be able to take her to the vet till Monday. Is the panting and yelping at night normal, or should I take her to an emergency vet? She did great right after the splint was put on. It seems to be just at night that there is a problem.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1251 Recommendations
Without seeing Jacki and knowing more about her, it is hard for me to comment on whether she is having a problem. If she had sedation, sometimes there can be behavioral changes in the short term, and that may be what is happening. If she is not bothering with the leg, seems comfortable, and there are no abnormal odors or swellings with the splint, you should be fine to monitor her. If any of those things start to occur, she should be seen by a veterinarian.

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Jax
Labrador Husky
5 Months
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Limping

My dog was excited to go for a walk and turn the corner of my kitchen while running and slipped, he let out a loud cry and wasn’t able to put any pressure on his paw. Today he’s able to put a little pressure on it but still limps. He doesn’t have any swelling but limps and cries when you grab his paw.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1251 Recommendations
It is hard to say what Jax may have done to his paw, whether it is a minor strain or sprain, or whether he has a hairline fracture. If he does not continue to improve, it would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian, as they can assess his foot and take an x-ray if needed. I hope that he is okay!

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Ralph
Chihuahua
8 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

My 8 year old chihuahua has been limping a little bit, he limps for am hour then is walking fine. Once he plays with me younger pup who is very active and always jumps over him ( which i believe how he hurt his leg ) he begins to cry and limp. As of right now he walked down the stairs perfectly fine but as soon i took both dogs for a walk my puppy jumped on him again and he began to cry. I had to carry him back home and he began to limp and not able to lay down but after 10-15 min he began to walk, lay down on the side. He has a little bit of shaking.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2740 Recommendations
It is important to give Ralph some rest; allow him some cage rest preferably away from your puppy so that any injury has time to heal properly, take Ralph out separately just in front of your home to do his business and then back inside again. If there is no improvement or the problem recurs after a week of rest you should visit your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Bella
chihuahua mix
9 Months
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Mild Swelling

Bella was brought to me by my neighbor’s son who told me that she was in his house & when called to go down the stairs she midway tripped & fell down the rest. She was limping when I brought her in & quickly just sat down. There’s a possibility that her back knee is either broken or fractured from what i researched but of course I’m not entirely sure. I just rapped it lightly just so that she doesn’t put pressure on it but I’m not sure what to do. Getting a cast is expensive & don’t have that kind of money right now, is there anything else I can do for her?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2740 Recommendations
Without examining Bella I cannot determine if she has sprained, dislocated or fractured something; this would be something to visit your Veterinarian about especially if you believe that there is a fracture. Your Veterinarian may take an x-ray as part of their examination of Bella. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Ellie
Puggle
3 Months
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Fractured
Splinter

Medication Used

none

My dog fructured his front paw and has been on a splint for about 2 weeks now. She is 3 months old so she is super active. She has been crate rest for the last 2 weeks . I’m wondering if she can start walking around the house yet or will have to crate rest for the rest of the treatment.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2740 Recommendations
You should keep Ellie rested as much as possible, I don’t know the type of fracture or severity so I cannot tell you to start walking her around and exercising but two weeks is a little soon. If you have questions you should call your Veterinarian for instructions. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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