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What is External Fixation?

External fixation is completed using a device called an external fixator. This specialized device consists of multiple pins and external bars or rings, which hold a fractured bone in place during the healing process. An external fixator is used primarily for complex fractures or fractures paired with an external wound. A licensed veterinarian that is well trained in skeletal fixation in dogs will conduct the external fixation procedure.

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External Fixation Procedure in Dogs

External fixation is a surgical procedure used to stabilize and set bones back into the correct position. In order to achieve this, the use of an external skeletal fixator is required. An external fixator is a device that consists of pins, which pass through the dog’s skin, underlying tissues, and bone. The pins pass from one side of the limb to the other and are stabilized by an external bridging bar that can be found on either side of the limb. There are two known types of external fixators used in canine external fixation: standard and circular fixators. A standard fixator is characterized by a number of pins that penetrate the bone and external bars that with then connect the pins together. A circular fixator is characterized by very thin pins that penetrate the bone in addition to the skin on both side of the affected limb. These fine pins are then attached to a metal circular plate or halo with each of the rings attaching to one another with long bolts. A circular fixator is reserved for complex fractures or angular limb deformities with the goal being correction.

Efficacy of External Fixation in Dogs

External Fixation is an effective procedure to correct complex fracture and angular limb deformities in dogs. Canines that are of a younger age have a good prognosis for a full recovery.

External Fixation Recovery in Dogs

External fixation in dogs has a long period of healing, usually lasting three to four months. The dog's fixator will be removed in a matter of stages in order to encourage the bone to strengthen and account for the canine’s weight. Pet owners should expect a series of follow-up vet appointments that will include an x-ray to view the internal healing that is being accomplished. The overall duration of healing time for a dog undergoing external fixation will depend on the severity of the injury and the individual’s ability to heal.

Cost of External Fixation in Dogs

The total cost of a canine external fixation procedure depends on the tools required, the specific condition, and the healing process determined by the dog's body. On average, pet owners should expect to pay roughly $2,000 to $5,000 to have external fixation performed on their dog. Talk to your specific veterinary care provider for a more accurate estimate of external fixation procedures in your area and local pet hospital.

Dog External Fixation Considerations

External fixation in dogs can have a few potential complications that dog owners should be informed of. Potential complications associated with the procedure include acute, profound hemorrhage from a pin site caused by the pin rubbing against and artery. Other complications of external fixation include bent pins, pin migration, loosening pins, and pin infections.

External Fixation Prevention in Dogs

To avoid an external fixation procedure, pet owners must avoid traumatic situations that could result in a complex fracture. Falls, hit-by-car accidents, attacks, and abuse are common underlying causes for a canine to develop a complex fracture. Other indications for an external fixation include congenital limb deformities that cannot be prevented, as these types of conditions are in the canine's DNA and can only be managed, not avoided.

External Fixation Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Jack Russell Terrier
4 Months
Moderate condition
1 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms


Medication Used

External fixator , pain killers

My 4 month old jack Russel was playing with his toys and jumped up. As he landed he fractured his left hind leg. He now has an external fixator for 9 days. He had been walking around a lot and running, will this damage the bone more? Will this affect the healing process?

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Golden Retriever
7 Weeks
Moderate condition
1 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms


Dog had TTA, and 2 weeks after surgery avulsion. She had second surgery using pins and screws to stabilize. A few days after got MRSA in wound and implant moved up 5mm. Vet is treating MRSA and once treated want to correct knee again. Should I request external fixator so implant remains stable this time?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
External fixation shouldn’t be required, plates and screws should be adequate to stabilise the tuberosity; however depending on the situation after the recovery from MRSA, other options may need to be explored on a case by case basis. I would suggest consulting with a Specialist as this will be the third surgery and may require more extensive work. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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