Bone fractures (breaks) are common in dogs and cats and fall into two categories: low-energy and high-energy fractures. Low-energy fractures are isolated injuries with no damage to other body compartments, such as might occur from a fall, or accidentally being stepped-upon. High-energy fractures are associated with whole-body trauma, such as might occur in a collision with a motor vehicle or a gunshot wound.
In diagnosing any bone fracture injury, the first objective is always to stabilize the patient in order to prevent shock and assess the severity of the injury. Every case is different, but this will often include an initial splint or bandage to cover any open wounds and prevent infection. Pain relief is given in order to comfort the patient while the extent of the injury is investigated. This initial investigation is accomplished through physical examination, but x-rays and even a CT scan may be indicated to clarify the complexity of the injury, and help identify the presence or absence of any concurrent injuries. These can include:
- Neurologic (Brain) Injury
- Internal Bleeding
- Soft Tissue Injury
- Joint & Ligament Damage
Not all fractures require surgery. Some low-energy fractures can be managed conservatively with restricted activity, external splinting or casting, and pain medication. More severe high-energy fractures will always require surgical repair to accomplish proper blood flow and healing and restore adequate function.
Our experienced surgical team have access to and experience using the most modern techniques in surgical bone fixation, including internal plating, nailing, screwing and wiring, as well as external fixation.
In cases where a surgical-repair is required, a 2-3 day hospital stay is necessary. The patient is kept comfortable with pain medication, and administered IV fluids and antibiotics to prevent infection. Movement is restricted during this critical period of recovery. Most fractures are repaired in a single procedure, but more complex fractures may require a second or even third operation to achieve an optimal outcome. Most patients are walking at the time of discharge.
Once home, owners should do everything possible to limit their pets’s activity, as strict rest is required for proper healing. Initially, there should be no running, jumping or playing, as these can all lead to re-injury. Rarely, a patient will present post-surgically with an “allergic” reaction to the metal from any screws, plates, pins or wire used in the procedure.
Every fracture is different, and healing times vary greatly. A return to normal activity can usually be seen within 8-16 weeks, depending upon the severity of the initial injury, age, breed, and overall health of the patient. In some cases, rehabilitative therapy my be required.