Fixation of Fractured Ribs in Dogs

Written By hannah hollinger
Published: 07/03/2017Updated: 08/28/2023
Veterinary reviewed by Michele K.
Fixation of Fractured Ribs in Dogs - Conditions Treated, Procedure, Efficacy, Recovery, Cost, Considerations, Prevention
Youtube Play

What are Fixation of Fractured Ribs?

Fractured ribs largely occur in dogs involved in traumatic events and very rarely happen in any other instance.

A dog can suffer broken ribs from being hit by a car, being attacked by other animals or, sadly, being assaulted by their owners or other people.

If your dog is suffering from a rib fracture, you need to take your pet immediately to a vet clinic for treatment. Failing to do so could result in further harm or even death.

The most common treatment for a general rib fracture is rest, allowing the fractured bone to heal naturally. A more serious injury may require splints or major surgery.

Fixation of Fractured Ribs Procedure in Dogs

If you notice your dog might have fractured ribs, there are a few preparatory steps you might take before you head to your local vet clinic. Those include:

Muzzling the dog, but only if it doesn't affect breathing. This sounds like a weird step for many owners whose dogs aren't aggressive, but you must consider that a dog with fractured ribs will be painful and may become extremely defensive in this state.

Checking for open wounds. What you're looking for is any bone going through the skin. If you notice one, you should cover it with a clean cloth or gauze.

Avoid carrying your dog in a way that impacts the chest area. In a severe rib fracture, you may notice your dog has a bulging chest which could be hard or soft. If it's hard, it may be the end of a rib; if it's soft, your dog's lungs could be punctured and will require immediate attention by a vet.

Once you arrive at your local vet clinic, the veterinarian will take chest X-rays and ultrasounds if any lung damage is apparent.

Serious rib fractures may need to be surgically repaired. 

External fixation involves the use of pins that go through the dog's skin, above and below the rib fracture. These pins then connect to one another and work as external fixators.

Internal fixation involves the use of pins, wire, plate, and screws to stabilize the broken rib(s). As the fixation procedures are surgical, anesthesia is required.

Efficacy of Fixation of Fractured Ribs in Dogs

In a standard rib fracture, after being discharged from the clinic, rest and keeping the dog quiet are extremely effective methods in repairing the ribs permanently. During the healing process, even though the ribs may technically be repaired or repairing by themselves, the dog may favor certain positions when sitting or lying down. Owners should be careful since the dog may yelp in pain if touched, and the rib area may feel strange under the skin.

In a more severe rib fracture which involves the chest wall or lungs, the dog's chest may be weakened and may induce other conditions such as thoracic trauma or pulmonary contusions.

Pulmonary contusions have been known to occur after a blunt force impacts the chest area, whether that's originated from another dog, animal or human; a vehicle, or a weapon.

If your dog's breathing is labored or sounds harsh, the initial rib injury may have caused further chest damage, even though the initial rib fracture may be fixed. Those new mild pulmonary contusions may not require treatment, but you shouldn't be the judge of that. Consult your veterinarian since the dog may require extra oxygen.

Fixation of Fractured Ribs Recovery in Dogs

After a fracture occurs, a blood clot will form around the bone to prevent bleeding. This clot will then turn into granulation tissue to aid in bone formation. The inflammation lasts around three to four days before the bone forms a callus and broken ends begin to join. During this grow and repair stage, your dog must remain quiet and inactive.

Your job as a dog owner is to keep him quiet, limit his exercise and administer any prescribed pain medication.

The healing process may take weeks, and recovery time depends on the seriousness of the fracture or fractures. During the healing process, you will likely have to schedule follow-up appointments with your vet, which may include additional X-rays, general health exams, and different analgesic prescriptions.

Puppies heal very well from general rib fractures as long as they are uncomplicated, as their bones are still developing and they have more bone building cells that generate a faster healing process. Older dogs take a little extra time.

Cost of Fixation of Fractured Ribs in Dogs

Cost can vary extensively. General fractures can be as inexpensive as two regular vet appointments plus the cost of painkillers, for a total of around $150, while treating a more severe rib fracture or fractures which require surgery can cost from $1,200 to $5,000.

There are quite a few variables when it comes to knowing the likely cost of treatment. A straightforward rib fracture with no pulmonary contusions, lung abrasions or flail chest is likely to be inexpensive, but it's hard to know whether your dog might need further pain medication, or if your pet will need additional X-rays or ultrasounds. On the other hand, with a more severe rib fracture, or an open fracture, the cost is going to be a lot higher and may even hit $5,000. Your dog might need to be on a ventilator for additional oxygen, may require several surgeries, and the after-care could include several trips to the vet for X-rays. Pain medication will also be required for a longer period, which will add to the cost.

Petted logo

Worried about the cost of treating your pet's symptoms?

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

Get a quote


Dog Fixation of Fractured Ribs Considerations

Never try to assess a rib fracture by yourself, whether it seems serious or not. You should always have it examined by a vet. The risk of not doing so can very likely lead to extreme discomfort, lung and chest problems, or even death. Ribs that don't heal properly or aren't properly checked by vets can also become misaligned and may, in time, injure your dog's internal organs.

If the fracture is adequately corrected, either with rest or surgery, your dog will be able to live a healthy and happy life. Relapse is unlikely, especially in younger dogs.

Fixation of Fractured Ribs Prevention in Dogs

Since almost all rib fractures in dogs occur after a blunt trauma, any prevention measures should be directed to prevent those injuries. For instance, providing a fully fenced section to protect the dog from wandering into the street and exercising your dog in a safe environment are two ways to prevent potential attacks from other dogs, and being hit by cars.

Aside from that, owners might consider looking into premium dietary options which can help strengthen the dog's bones and muscles. Although it can be more expensive, premium dog food will enhance your dog's health, immune defenses, and wellbeing.

To strengthen your dog's bones, you can feed your pet a good quality dog food. Those ingredients will encourage healthy bones and muscles, but before starting to feed your pet any new products, be sure to consult your vet.

Fixation of Fractured Ribs Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals


Labrador Retriever



One Year


5 found this helpful


5 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
She was attacked by another dog and has a scratch that owsing puss. She acts fine. It’s just the puss concerning me

Dec. 7, 2020

Answered by Dr. Michele K. DVM

5 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Dog bite wounds can become infected very quickly, and they can have some nasty bacteria. I think you are right to be concerned with the discharge that you are seeing, and she probably needs antibiotics. The best thing to do for her would be to have her seen by a veterinarian before the wound gets worse, so that they can get treatment for her.

Dec. 7, 2020

Was this question and answer helpful?




Seven Years


0 found this helpful


0 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Painful Lump Behind Left Shoulder - Possible Rib
He cries when the lump is touched but appears comfortable when lying down. He can still jump up on us but looks awkward walking up stairs. He got out of our yard yesterday after heavy winds blew open the gate, we think he was injured while out

Sept. 26, 2020

Answered by Dr. Michele K. DVM

0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. Since I cannot see your dog, It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get treatment for them.

Oct. 18, 2020

Was this question and answer helpful?
Need pet insurance?
Need pet insurance?

Learn more in the Wag! app

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews


© 2024 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.