Broken leg in a dog

An important note for dog owners

Dogs often break their legs. Dogs are active animals and the occurrence of various injuries, fractures and dislocations is no exception. They most often experience fractures of the hip, lower leg, shoulder and spine. If a pet has broken a leg, trying to provide independent care can make the problem worse. Only a veterinarian can determine the severity of the injury and prescribe the necessary treatment.

Types of leg fractures

Usually the following types of fractures are distinguished: open or closed, simple and complex, fractures of varying complexity. An open fracture has fairly typical characteristics. It is always accompanied by a wound, often with bone fragments. With a closed fracture, the bones can protrude through the skin without breaking through it.

There are also types of line fractures – oblique, transverse, spiral, and splinter fractures. Fractures don’t just occur due to the presence of trauma. There are examples when they occur due to pathologies. For example, with a calcium deficiency in the body, bone cancer, or old age of the animal. Then the bones can be damaged even with typical everyday stress, such as under the weight of the dog’s own body.

In addition to treating an injured back or front paw, the breeder needs to address the factors that caused the pet’s bone integrity.

Cracked bone

The most obvious sign, received an injury – the animal can not step on the paw, the puppy howls in pain, does not allow to touch the sore spot.

In addition to a broken bone, you can get a fracture.

To diagnose it, you need to make an X-ray of the limb, visually it is quite difficult to do. Perhaps the appearance of swelling, but unlike a contusion, in a fracture only the bone suffers, and the tissues surrounding it remain intact.

However, among fractures, a fracture is the safest kind. If not treated in time, it can develop into a fracture.


Occurs when there is longitudinal damage to the bone. Animals usually get such a fracture while jumping from a height on their front paws.

With such an injury, the pet goes limp, and the bones at the site of the fracture fall on top of each other. If a cast is not applied in time, they will dislocate and heal improperly.

With an embedded fracture, the surrounding tissues are usually unaffected.

Open fracture

With this type of fracture, the split bone tears the skin and, along with the muscles, peeks outward. The wound can be noticed immediately.

It is extremely difficult for the animal to move around and it is very uncomfortable when trying to stand on its paw.

An open fracture is probably the most dangerous and the dog must be taken to a hospital immediately.


It comes with or without a bone shear.

In the first, the ends of the fractured bone are not displaced relative to each other. In the second, the injured fragments separate, tearing the surrounding soft tissue. The animal cannot step on the limb, and the paw swells.

The danger is that no external changes are visible, but severe tissue damage can develop under the skin.

Displaced fracture

This type of fracture is often characteristic of the tibia. The integrity of the tibia and fibula is compromised due to the strong mobility and lack of a large number of muscles covering the bones.

The pet will not be able to walk with this fracture. Often, the paw can wiggle and look unnatural. In addition, a displaced fracture is characterized by the development of a hematoma due to the close proximity of blood vessels.

No displacement

If the fracture is closed and without displacement, the ends of the bones are in a natural position. Edema may occur.

Common signs of a broken leg in a dog

signs of a broken leg in a dog

There are pretty obvious symptoms that a dog has broken his leg and owners need to know them. Some of the main symptoms include:

  • The presence of severe pain;
  • The appearance of swelling at the site of the fracture;
  • Inability to lean on the injured limb;
  • Deformation of the leg.


Successful treatment of a dog leg break depends largely on a proper assessment of the problem. It is not recommended to try to help the pet on your own. First, the owner is not a veterinarian and will not be able to sensibly assess the extent of the problem, and second, because of the severe pain, the animal may accidentally bite the owner.

If you find your dog injured, it is better to immediately go to the veterinary clinic. There, the doctor will examine the patient, assess his general condition to make sure there are no life-threatening factors.

A plastic carrier should be used to transport small animals.

First Aid

The dog broke his leg – what is the first thing you should do? After an injury, the dog should be taken to the veterinarian. The main thing is to be careful when transporting it.

You should not try to fix the broken leg yourself, only a specialist can do it correctly.

Also, you should not give your dog any painkillers that you take yourself. Not all medications that people take are suitable for animals. Taking some medications is fatal.

You can treat areas with an open wound or protruding bone with antiseptic and cover them with sterile gauze.


A dog’s injured leg should be treated by a specialized veterinarian. The broken leg must be properly examined and the correct treatment applied.

An x-ray is taken to make a diagnosis and determine the severity of the injury. For open fractures, external fixation devices are often used, which are removed after complete healing.

If the leg is injured, it is sometimes fixed with a bandage, but strictly under the supervision of a specialist. A cast is put on for 40 days for broken bones and 15 days for fractures.

However, a cast is not often used in animals. It is difficult to control that the dog does not start to remove it from the leg. Trying to get rid of the cast can cause the animal to injure itself further.

Additionally, medications are prescribed: corticosteroids to relieve inflammation, analgesics to relieve pain, and sedatives.

Surgery for a broken leg

Sometimes a dog has to be operated on, or else the broken leg cannot be made fully functional again.

Surgery is prescribed in complicated cases, for example, when there are a lot of splinters in a fracture. The surgeon’s task is to assemble them and fix them in the right place using pins, pins or a plate.

Such procedures are usually performed routinely on day 3 to 5 after the injury. If the surgeon intervenes in the injured area immediately after the injury, all the contents of the hematoma will come out and fusion will be slow.

The exception is a fracture of the vertebral column, then the patient is operated on immediately.

Types of osteosynthesis:

  • Immersion – involves the use of structures that are inside the fracture. It can be intraosseous, lap and transosseous;
  • External stabilization is characterized by the use of stabilizing systems outside the fracture (external fixation devices).
  • There are also combined methods.

Severe fractures sometimes require an amputation, for example, when the bone fragments cannot be brought together. The paw loses its support ability and full return of function does not occur.

Recovery from a broken leg

In order to recover from an injury as quickly as possible, the dog must be kept at rest. Smaller individuals are often kept in a cage during treatment.

Excessive strain on the operated limb results in displacement, and improper healing may result in implant fracture.

The patient’s dressings should always be dry after surgery. Also, no licking of the dressing or attempts to remove the sutures are allowed. To prevent licking of the stitches, a special collar, which is sold at the veterinary drugstore, is used.

It usually takes 4-8 weeks for the bones to heal.

A number of medical procedures are resorted to in order to help the dog cope with the effects of the fracture more quickly. These include:

  • Osteosynthesis, an operation that involves the process of fusing broken bones together. This method is used when a patient has a displaced fracture. The bones and their fragments are firmly fixed until they are fully fused;
  • Application of various rehabilitation measures after surgery. The program is prepared by the rehabilitation therapist and is based on the condition of the animal that has undergone the surgery.

After an injury, it is important that the limbs be mobile. Even a few days of no rehabilitation can be crucial to recovery.

With the right program, limb recovery should occur by the second week after the injury.

During recovery, dogs and puppies may have pain syndrome, which can be managed with medication or physical therapy.

Rehabilitation techniques:

  • Kinesiotherapy – a set of exercises with support;
  • Manual therapy – massage, stretching;
  • Electrical stimulation – increasing muscle endurance through their contraction;
  • EUVT (extracorporeal shockwave therapy) – a method used for poorly healed fractures;
  • hydrotherapy – a course of exercises on a water treadmill in a swimming pool to transfer the animal’s weight on the injured leg.


It is important to keep an eye on your dog. Do not let it out for a walk. This way, the risk of being hit by a car and having run-ins with other animals will be minimized, and your pet will be healthy and live a long, happy life.

To reduce the risk of bone breakage from pathological problems, a balanced diet is important, as well as timely diagnosis of diseases such as osteosarcoma. If a dog is found to have such a tumor, often the affected bone is replaced with artificial material, thereby reducing bone density and minimizing the occurrence of a broken leg.

Reyus Mammadli/ author of the article

I have had pets since childhood: cats, guinea pigs, rabbits, geese, chickens, ducks, parrots, aquarium fish and dogs (in the yard). Of course, I constantly encountered diseases of pets and treated them. Glad to be able to share my skills and experience, as well as advice on caring for and adapting these critters and birds.

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