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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 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.

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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.

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Surgical Fracture Repair Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Golden Retriever

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5 months

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Unknown severity

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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

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 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

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8 monthd

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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

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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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, unfortunately. 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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Lab chow

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Three Months

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Unknown severity

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Limp Paw

Is there any thing I can do to help my puppy who has a possible paw fracture at home. It may be a while before he can go to the vet.

Aug. 4, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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Hello I'm sorry to see that your pet is injured. There isn't anything you can give over the counter. It is best to take him to a veterinarian as soon as possible for an exam, pain medication and possible x-rays. Good luck.

Aug. 4, 2020

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German Shepherd

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Fourteen Weeks

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Broken Leg

Hello. My puppy just had surgery for a fractured front leg (broken right where the elbow meets the lower half of the leg) The surgery was one week ago and she has a splint on it covered with bandages and a cast. How long can I expect it to heal (what is the shortest expected length of time and the longest expected length of time)? Can I give her anything like cortisone to help it heal faster? Thanks!

July 30, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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Hello- Thank you for you question. In puppies fracture healing typically takes 6-8 weeks on average but may take an extra month or so depending on the type of fracture, location and each body is a bit different. It’s best if you can keep him quiet and minimize activity. Keep the bandages clean and dry. If it becomes moist you need to have it changed by your vet otherwise an infection will occur. Unfortunately there is nothing extra to administer to help healing. I would only administer medication your vet has prescribed. Have a good day!

July 30, 2020

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Maltese Mix

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22 weeks and 2 days

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Painful Walking

How much would it cost for my puppy to get her right hind growth plate fracture repaired?

July 13, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. The repair that you're describing depends on which growth plate is fractured, how long it has been going on, where you live, and what level of expertise the surgeons in your area have. Unfortunately, I am not able to answer that question. It would be best to ask your veterinarian who they would refer to, and how much things will cost. You may need to have a consultation with the orthopedic surgeon, and they will be able to give you a better idea, as well. I hope that all goes well for your little dog.

July 13, 2020

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Molly

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Labrador Retriever

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2 Years

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Fair severity

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Broken Right Front Leg

2 year old hunting lab works in cold water during hunting season. Had a break in tibia and fibula on front right leg. Surgery was performed with an internal plate and 8 screws and we are now healed. The vet gave the clearance to start exercising her again after her crated time of 8 weeks. My question is is it too soon to allow her into the water. I have heard the cold water can affect the dogs with a plate. He also recommended removing the plate in may. Should I wait to water train until the water has warmed or will she be fine.

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Shanna

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Collie smooth

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29 Months

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Mild severity

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Limping After Exercise.

My dog underwent an arthroscopy for limping, inflammation and arthritis of her elbow joint. However, during the operation the metal tip of the tool (?forceps) broke off and could not be recovered by the surgeon. The piece missing is 1mm in diameter. It is visible on X-Ray. I have been assured there will be no problem because it is not near muscles. What should I do? I’m concerned that it will cause more limping and pain but that the cause may be unclear due to her current status and there will be added stress for my dog and cost for me.

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Keke

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Pomeranian

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8 Months

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

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Limping

My 8 month old Pomeranian has broken 2 of her bones in her leg, the vet has put her in a splint until there can get her in for surgery as she needs plates. It’s been 4 days since she broke her leg and the vets have still not booked her in for operation. I am really concerned that it’s now the weekend and the vet has told me it will be sometime next week. Is this normal for them to leave a dog this long without operating?

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Mister brown

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Pit bull

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5 Years

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Limping

My 5yr pit bull broke his r ulnar bone in January of this year had surgery pin broke had a 2nd surgery same thing then it started Piercing through his skin so another surgery to remove the hard ware he’s still limping now and has develop what look a soft mass or abscess we took him back to the vet he said his bony was compensating for the bone not mending he doesn’t appear to have any pain but can we put a braces on in to help strength it up and improve the his limp

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Titus

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jack russell mix

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3 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Bowing

My 3 year old jack russel mix broke his front leg. (Radius & ulna). We were told he needed surgery so we agreed (6,000) they inserted plate and screws. We have been following his restriction to the T. Short(no more than 5 mins) potty walks. We recently went back for our 6 week X-ray check up and they stated that his radius was bowing and ulna was not showing bone growth. What can we do to help stimulate bone growth and prevent the radius from bowing more. We do not want to have to do surgery again or amputate. He does not show any signs of discomfort. He will even let you touch and rub his leg without much fighting.

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