Will a broken leg in a dog heal itself

Broken dog's leg

A broken leg in a dog can usually be diagnosed very clearly and treated well with the help of a variety of different treatment methods. It is important to recognize the broken leg (fracture) at an early stage or to visit a veterinarian immediately. Find out details about symptoms, therapies and types of broken legs in dogs here.

Symptoms of a broken leg in a dog

The signs of a broken leg in a dog are usually very clear, which is why the dog owner can recognize one himself. Acute severe lameness is typical, i.e. the dog no longer puts any weight on the affected leg. In addition, different degrees of swelling can occur on the leg.

When touching the broken leg, the dog is very sensitive and often shows clear pain reactions, such as howling, whimpering or biting. If the leg is broken, crepitations can be felt when the leg is carefully moved, i.e. the ends of the broken legs rubbing against each other. However, this should only be carried out by a veterinarian, as the situation can otherwise be worsened if it is carried out independently.

The sum of these symptoms finally helps to identify whether the leg is for example broken or sprained is.

Broken Legs in Dogs: Causes and Diagnosis

Usually the cause of a broken leg in a dog is an accident that is associated with high impact speeds. Examples are car accidents, impact injuries, falls from great heights or gunshot wounds.

If you are present in the event of an accident or if the dog comes back with the symptoms mentioned above - for example after it has run away - it must be taken to a veterinarian immediately. This finally makes the diagnosis "broken leg" on the basis of an X-ray image and then clarifies the further procedure and the expected costs.

If a dog only suffers from a broken bone and has no additional complaints - for example in organs - then treatment of the broken leg is quite possible and putting the dog to sleep is usually not an option.

Classification of broken bones

If the dog is diagnosed with a broken leg, it is important to determine more precisely what type of fracture it is. Because it ultimately also depends on which therapy is used, how long the healing time will be and what costs can be expected.

The general criteria for classifying broken bones are:

  • Location: which bone is broken and where
  • Course of the fracture line: transverse fracture, oblique fracture or spiral fracture
  • Number of fragments: fragment fracture or debris fracture
  • Possibility of reconstruction of the bone and resilience
  • closed or open leg fracture

In addition to these factors, the size and age of the dog, any accompanying illnesses or the dog's ability to cooperate after the operation also play a role. In general, a broken leg heals faster in a young dog than in an old dog. The healing time is usually at least four to six weeks, but can also take up to a few months.

In puppies and growing young dogs, there is also a special form of broken legs, the so-called Salter-Harris fractures. The bone breaks in the area of ​​the growth plates, which can lead to delayed growth or limb shortening in the affected dog.

Treatment and costs in the event of a broken leg

For the treatment of a fracture in dogs, a distinction is made between external and internal fixation methods, whereby the use of the respective systems depends on the type of fracture. However, this classification does not refer to external (without surgery) and internal (with surgery), but to the fact that external methods are attached to the outside of the dog's leg and internal methods are not.

Also the Veterinary costs differ in terms of the fixation methods used. The internal methods are more cost-intensive than the external ones, with the fee schedule for veterinarians again differentiating between simple and difficult fractures. However, since not every surgical method can be used for every type of broken leg, the cheapest option cannot always be chosen.

In addition to the actual costs for the operation, there are, for example, those for possible inpatient accommodation, x-rays, material costs and drug costs. You can get into a four-digit amount very quickly. Finally, not to forget the follow-up checks at the veterinarian, including in the form of x-rays.

External fixation for a broken leg in a dog

Stand by the external method Plaster casts (Casts) or the so-called "external fixator" are available. In some cases, plaster of paris can be used for stabilization on its own, but in most cases it is combined with internal fixation systems. Regardless of this, the plaster cast must be checked regularly, changed if necessary and removed again after the bone has healed.

Also the "External fixator" is, as the name suggests, an external fixation method. Here, pins are first passed through the bone in an operation. These are then fixed to connecting rods that are outside the dog's leg (i.e. external). The external fixator must be checked regularly and removed once the bone has healed successfully. To do this, the dog is sedated, so he is given a sedative and is immobilized for the procedure.

Internal fixation for a broken leg in a dog

The following systems are available for internal fixation, which is always associated with an operating theater:

  • Intramedullary nails (a nail that runs lengthways through the bone marrow)
  • Locking nails (a special nail that runs lengthways through the bone marrow and is also fixed with screws)
  • Orthopedic wires / wire cerclages (special wires are placed around the bone and tightened)
  • Bone plates and screws (a bone plate is placed on the bone and fastened with screws)

With these methods, too, the dog must come back for follow-up checks after the operation, also in order to be able to assess the healing process of the fracture on the basis of X-rays.

Intramedullary nails are usually removed again after healing. The dog is sedated, the skin over the end of the nail is shaved and cleaned, a local anesthetic is administered and the nail is then pulled. Finally the skin is sutured again.

Locking nails and Wire cerclages however, can be left on the bone even after the fracture has healed.

Bone plates can either remain on the dog's bone or be removed again after a sufficient waiting period (no earlier than three to four months after the bone has healed on the X-ray).

Post-surgery care

The dog receives before and during the operation Painkiller and these will also be given home afterwards.

After surgery on a broken leg, it is important to treat the dog save. Until completely healed, it is important to reduce the movement to slow walks on a leash in order to prevent the negative consequences of a broken leg.

In addition, cold therapy, heat therapy and physiotherapy also play a major role in the dog's good recovery. However, prior to unauthorized use, the attending veterinarian must always be consulted and physiotherapy in particular may only be carried out under the supervision of a knowledgeable person at the beginning.

Cold therapy and heat therapy

Cold therapy can be used on dogs in the first two to three days after the operation, as cold here relieves pain on the one hand and has a decongestant effect on the other. Possible means of cold therapy are cold compresses or plastic bags filled with ice cubes. This can be applied to the affected area three times a day for about 20 minutes.

In the subsequent chronic phase, heat therapy is continued from the fifth day after the operation at the earliest, which also has a pain-relieving effect and also stimulates blood circulation. The same applies here: apply damp, hot towels three times a day for about 20 minutes. In order not to scald the skin, however, the cloths must not be too hot.

Physiotherapy for dogs

With the so-called passive physiotherapy muscles, tendons and ligaments of the dog that are above or below the treated area are gently stretched. Likewise, joints are gently flexed above and below the fracture site. The larger joints (for example knee or elbow joint) on the affected leg should be bent and stretched for about two to three minutes.

In order to maintain the muscle strength in the dog's leg, passive physiotherapy should also be used active physiotherapy be combined. From the first week after the operation, an attempt is made to let the dog put weight on the operated leg for one to two minutes.

To increase the load, the healthy opposite paw can be carefully raised a little. For example, if the dog was operated on on the right front leg, an attempt is made to bend the left front paw. The duration of exercise is gradually increased until the dog can use the leg completely independently again.

Updated: 06.06.2018 - Author: Theresa Heimerl

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