Surgical Fracture Repair in Dogs

Written By hannah hollinger
Published: 12/09/2016Updated: 01/12/2022
Veterinary reviewed by Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS
Surgery for Fractures in Dogs - Conditions Treated, Procedure, Efficacy, Recovery, Cost, Considerations, Prevention
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What is Surgical Fracture Repair?

Some 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.

Surgical Fracture Repair Procedure in Dogs

As with most major operations, the dog will have to be anesthetized 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.

When surgery is not affordable and a fracture is complex, limb amputation may be appropriate.

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 dry and 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 does 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.

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Dog Surgical Fracture Repair Considerations

One of the main risks of surgery for fractures in dogs is the requirement for general anesthetic 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. Complications such as implant breakdown and infections can occur. 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.

Paying for the surgical repair of fractures out of pocket can be a major financial burden. Fortunately, most pet insurance companies reimburse claims within 3 days, putting 90% of the bill back in your pocket. In the market for pet insurance? Compare leading pet insurance companies to find the right plan for your pet.

Surgical Fracture Repair Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals


Golden Retriever



5 months


11 found this helpful


11 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Not Walking On Right Leg
Our 5 month old was at dog training class tonight. He was jumping on another animal and owner. My husband pulled his leash to get him off and he jumped when my husband pulled his leash causing him to fling back on his right shoulder. He cried out and just laid there. Now he is hobbling. What can be done to help

Sept. 29, 2020

Answered by Dr. Michele K. DVM

11 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. From your description, it is possible that your puppy strained or sprained that shoulder when he landed badly. Since most over the counter medications can be quite toxic to dogs, especially puppies, the best thing to do for him would be rest and time. Keeping him from having any running or jumping for the next 3 or 4 days would be a good idea, and keep a close eye on whether he is improving. If he continues to limp, then it would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian. I hope that all goes well for him.

Oct. 1, 2020

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Toy Poodle



8 monthd


0 found this helpful


0 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Broken Humerus
Dog broke his humerus twice. Went in for corrective surgery. His elbow will only bend at 20 percent. Can this get better and is their possibility that once his bones heal he can go back for corrective surgery to bend his arm better?

Aug. 6, 2020

Answered by Dr. Michele K. DVM

0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. It isn't really possible for me to know how things will heal for him without being able to examine him It is not likely that he will get any more movement in that joint if it has healed, and that may have been the best that could be achieved, depending on the break. If he is a small dog, he may not have any problems with that, as dogs that don't bear a lot of weight on joints tend to do better than larger dogs with these problems. If you need to know more about what to expect, it would be okay to call your veterinarian and ask their opinion on his mobility, as they know more about his situation. I hope that he does well.

Aug. 8, 2020

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