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.

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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 feel weakened by the condition 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 only cover it with a clean cloth or gauze and wrap the entire chest area in a clean sheet.

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 can be surgically repaired. Otherwise, your vet may work single fractures with pins and wires.

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, or at the very serious end, a ventilation machine to help the animal breathe.

Aside from those considerations, the result of fixing fractured ribs is relatively straightforward.

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 in around two to four weeks, 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, with an estimate between six and twelve weeks.

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.

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 diet rich in calcium and phosphate. 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

Yorkshire Terrier
2 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Broken ribs

Just came back from a trip to find my baby dog is yelping if I pick her up. Immediately called the dog walker but she says nothing happened. Cannot believe it as my dog is usually happy and always wants to jump into my arms. She is walking, eating, drinking normally but I see her pain in her eyes. When I want to pick her up she just lays as low as possible on the floor and I can tell she doesn't want to be picked up. She accidentally rolled over to her right side as she fell asleep and started screaming like crazy.
I have touched the area, can't feel anything as I am afraid to touch her or push her ribs.
Will have to do X-rays in the morning as she is breathing normally and I don't hear her complain more.
What could have caused this? I see online blunt trauma. The dog walker is then lying to me.
I hope my baby can recover rapidly as I don't know when or how this happened.
Thank you for your help!

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1485 Recommendations
Normally trauma is the cause which may have been caused by a fall, kick or other cause (I am not trying to imply any fault on the side of the dog walker); an x-ray will show if there is any injury to the ribs or to the abdomen. Your Veterinarian will give Lucifer a thorough examination along with x-rays to determine the severity of the injury; in some cases plenty of rest is adequate for recovery but depending on the severity surgery may be required. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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English Mastiff
Mild condition
1 found helpful
Mild condition

My dog fell down our stairs and he is drinking and eating but resting well. This happen five days ago. We think he broke his ribs. He is breathing heavy at times. Is asprin ok to give? We will take him to our vet but we are scared because of his age. He is 11 and is a English mastiff. Any help would be greatfull!

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1485 Recommendations
Before giving aspirin for a traumatic injury like this I would advise that your visit your Veterinarian first so that an examination and x-ray(s) can be taken to assess the severity of Zoe’s injuries. Also, if there is any internal bleeding aspirin would be contraindicated due to its ability to thin the blood; again you should visit your Veterinarian first. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM


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14 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

My dog fell off 3 steps and hurt her neck, we took her to the emergency vet told me to have her rest in bed and not let her move. she pees and poops on her, she does not get up and cries a lot. She is on pain medication, muscle relaxing,steroid as well. Vet told us to come back in 3 weeks. do you think is another diagnostic, she looks tired and does not stop crying. she eats and drinks a little bit not like usual

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1485 Recommendations
An x-ray (with or without contrast media - myelography) would be a useful diagnostics tool to determine the extent of the injury especially if Sisi doesn’t have control of her bowels or bladder. Many times with slips and falls, rest is best but it is important to see what damage, if any, has been done. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Toy or Miniature Poodle
13 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Fractured rib

My dog fell off a balcony and broke her rib I took her to the emergency vet and to her primary vet told me to have her bed rest and not let her move but she won't stay put. How do I keep her from moving around? She is on pain medication as well.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1485 Recommendations
In many cases like this, rest is best; it can be difficult to restrict movement in some dogs, regardless of the pain they are in. I would strongly recommend getting a crate for Cookie to recuperate in, keep a food and water bowl with her and take her out on a lead into the garden to do her business and then back into the crate. It may seem harsh but this is in her best interest. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Beagle Shepherd
4 Years
Fair condition
1 found helpful
Fair condition

I had my mom keep my dog for a week and when I got him back his rib felt weird the very bottom one feels out of line in the front and back I think her huge dog might have hurt him what should I do

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1485 Recommendations
If you are feeling any anomaly with Jack’s ribs or any bones you should visit your Veterinarian for a check to see if it is something which needs to be addressed or not. If Jack isn’t in any pain or discomfort your Veterinarian may just advise to keep an eye on it; but it is important to get it checked out first. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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