What is Surgical Fracture Repair?

The majority of bone fractures that occur in dogs can be treated via a simple bone realignment and containment within a cast or splint. However, some breaks are not clean enough to simply fit back together via traction and require surgery to properly heal and allow for a return to a normal quality of life.

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Surgical Fracture Repair Procedure in Dogs

As with most major operations, the dog will have to be anaesthetized before the surgery can begin. The vet will then make an incision along the affected area. When fixing the bone into place, there are two main methods that are used dependent on the type of fracture present. External fixing uses screws to attach the bone fragments to a metal bar placed on the outside of the leg - these screws penetrate through the skin, bone and any other tissue in the way. This is most commonly used on complex fractures of the limbs. Internal fixing on the other hand, means that the screws are retained entirely within the body and merely secure the bone fragments to each other (or to an internal plate), instead of piercing through the skin to affix to an external mount. This is most commonly used on fractures in the torso (especially the spine) and head. 

In total, the surgery will usually last for between one and three hours, with especially sensitive fractures, such as those of the spine, taking the longest to repair.

Efficacy of Surgical Fracture Repair in Dogs

Surgical repair of fractures is the most effective way to deal with broken bones in animals. Whereas humans can often make do with a simple splint and cast (because of our ability to understand the necessity of restricting movement of the offending body part), animals are far more likely to require a solution that can withstand a degree of force. Provided that the fixtures are not knocked out of place by violent movement, the dog should make a steady recovery from surgery.

Surgical Fracture Repair Recovery in Dogs

Following the operation, the bone should knit back together and heal fairly quickly. Although this process is much faster in younger animals, most fractures in adult dogs will be fully healed after two to three months. When it comes to aftercare, there are several main areas that owners will have to pay attention to. First is stopping the dog from chewing or otherwise disturbing the wound, bandages or fixtures - this is most easily accomplished via the use of an E-collar and restricting their exercise.  Second is maintaining the bandages themselves. Whilst the vet will apply and adjust fresh bandages during follow-up visits, it is important for the owners to keep the bandages sanitary in order to prevent infection. To accomplish this, they must keep the dog's living area sanitary and prevent them from picking up dirt and bacteria from the floor. It is also worth bearing in mind that painkillers will have to be administered to prevent further discomfort.

Follow-up visits will be required throughout the duration of the healing process, as the vet will need to check on the progress the bone is making and eventually surgically remove the fixtures. Additionally, they will most likely want to conduct physiotherapy so that the dog can maintain a full range of motion  and not incur additional injuries once they are allowed to exercise normally.

Cost of Surgical Fracture Repair in Dogs

Due to the amount of time, equipment and aftercare required, a typical surgical repair for a leg fracture can cost upwards of $2,000. This price can be considerably higher depending on the age of the dog and any other medical conditions they may have.

Dog Surgical Fracture Repair Considerations

One of the main risks of surgery for fractures in dogs is the requirement for general anaesthetic during the operation. Additionally, owners may want to consider the possibility that their dog will not heal particularly well (especially if older) and may require further treatment. That said, a surgical solution to broken bones is often the only practical way forward when dealing with many types of bone fractures.

Surgical Fracture Repair Prevention in Dogs

Whilst owners cannot be expected to monitor their dog constantly in order to prevent accidents that can cause broken bones, there are some things they can do to mitigate the risk. One of the most effective ways is to make sure their dog is receiving a good, nutritional diet that will create strong, healthy bones. This is especially true early in the dog's life, when their skeletal structure is still developing. Another measure that can be taken is to ensure that any large drops and precarious ledges in their property are blocked off. Much like young children, dogs are naturally curious and left to their own devices can blunder into a number of hazards around the home.

Surgical Fracture Repair Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

12 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms


my dog just had tibia bone fracture surgery and is on the road to recovery. however the vet suggested to remove the metal plate and 6 screws after three months.
Is this necessary? Will keeping the plate in his leg cause any issues in the future?
The metal plate they used was slightly bigger so as to secure his bone fracture.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1520 Recommendations
It really depends on the severity of the fracture and type of fixation used, some plates and screws can be left behind and others cannot. Generally plates and screws are left in place and are only removed if the plate moves or is causing an issue; if a larger plate was used or there is some other issue with the surgery the plate may need to be removed to be on the safe side, but you should discuss this with your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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11 Months
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Hello - my dog has a fracture in in her radial bone (forearm, front leg). It appears to be a hairline, we had xrays. My vet said maybe go see orthopedic but he's not sure. I'd love another opinion of what to do with her!

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1520 Recommendations
Most likely Stella would do well with strict rest and a splint or cast; but due to their size and energy, your Veterinarian may be wondering if it is best to have some firm stabilisation of the fracture to be on the safe side. The specific location of the fracture and any points of insertion affected may cause issues in the future if not stabilised; if your Veterinarian is recommending a visit to a Specialist, a half way measure may be to send a copy of the x-rays to a company like PetRays who will give you a report on their findings. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM http://petrays.com/

My 8month old puppy had surgery yesterday for a fracture in her hind leg. The surgery went well, but the vet sent her hime with no cast or dressing over the stiches. The stitches are exposed to open air. Is that normal? Is my dog supposed to have a cast or dressing to cover the stiches?

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