Dog: Fractures

General information

Other common/scientific names: broken bones

A fracture refers to a crack or break in a bone. Dogs most commonly fracture their limbs and pelvis. There are several types of fractures and each type has different complications and methods of repair.

Fracture Types

  • Closed: Fractures in which there is no external wound.
  • Open or compound: Fractures associated with an open wound and the bone may or may not be visible.
  • Greenstick: Fractures where the bone is cracked but still intact-not completely broken.
  • Epiphyseal: Fractures through the epiphysis or growth plate of a young, growing dog.
  • Simple: Fractures where the bone breaks into two or three pieces.
  • Comminuted: Fractures where the bone breaks into many pieces.


Most fractures in dogs are caused by trauma or an injury. Of these, automobiles account for the majority. Occasionally, fractures will occur in bones which are damaged due to osteosarcoma, bone infection, bone cysts or arthritis.


The clinical signs of a fracture will depend on the location of the fracture. Pain and reluctance to use the fractured bone are most common.


Fractures are diagnosed by physical examination and radiographs.


The treatment for fractures will depend on the location of the fracture, severity and type of fracture. The dog’s age, size and temperament should also be a consideration in treatment. Younger dogs will heal easier and faster than older dogs. While some fractures will heal with a splint or cast, most will require surgery. Severely comminuted fractures may be best repaired by a veterinarian specializing in orthopedics.

To repair a fracture, the ends of the bone must be opposed. This can be performed without an incision, using traction and manipulation or it can be performed surgically. Both methods require general anesthesia.

Once the fracture ends are in opposition, the fracture must be immobilized. This can be accomplished in three ways:

  • A simple, closed fracture of a limb can be placed in a splint or cast. This works best for fractures below the elbow or stifle (knee).
  • External fixation is a surgical procedure which uses pins passed from outside the leg, through the skin and into the bones of a limb. These pins are then connected by rods. External fixation can be used with internal fixation.
  • Internal fixation uses orthopedic pins, wires, plates and screws to surgically repair a fracture.
Abb. GG1ZWP8G: Fractures of the front limbs.
This is a radiograph of a dog which has fractured the radius and ulna in both front legs.

Abb. GG2007AM
Abb. GG2007AM: Surgical fracture repair.
This is a radiograph of the left front limb after surgical repair.

Abb. GG201OXP
Abb. GG201OXP: Healing fractures after surgical repair.
These are radiographs of the fractured front limbs 10 weeks after surgical repair. The plates, screws and pins have been removed.

Abb. GG203GPG
Abb. GG203GPG: Fractured femur (thigh bone).
This is a radiograph of a fractured femur. This is a comminuted fracture because of the multiple pieces of broken bone.

Abb. GG204TOK
Abb. GG204TOK: External Fixator.
This is a radiograph of the fractured femur after surgical repair with both external fixation and internal fixation.


The prognosis of a fracture depends on the type, severity and location. Simple, closed fractures usually heal with little complications. Surgical repair of severe, comminuted fractures can be quite successful if performed by a veterinarian skilled in orthopedics. Open fractures carry a higher risk of infection. The prognosis will also depend on the commitment of the owner to adhere to strict aftercare instructions.


Any dog with a fracture will need rest to allow it to heal. The time frame can be 2 to 12 weeks or more of cage confinement depending on the fracture and age of the dog. Casts and splints must be kept clean and dry. Dogs with external fixations must have the skin cleaned daily where the pins enter. Dogs undergoing internal fixation repair will have a skin incision with sutures which will need to be keep clean and dry. Any swelling, redness or discharge should be reported to your veterinarian. A special collar (E-collar) should be worn to keep the dog from licking or chewing at any sutures. Follow up examinations and radiographs are needed to ensure the fracture is healing properly.

Update version: 4/24/2014, © Copyright by
Join the discussion!
- This article has no comments yet -

The information offered by enpevet Ltd. is intended solely for information purposes and and does under no circumstances replace a personal consultation, examination or diagnosis through a veterinarian. Thus, the information serves as an addition to the dialogue between pet owner and veterinarian, but can never replace the visit to the veterinarian. enpevet® would like to ask all users, whose animals have health concerns, to see a veterinarian as required. If you have any questions regarding the health of your animal, we recommend that you turn to your trusted veterinarian , instead of starting, changing or breaking off treatments on your own. The content of enpevet® cannot and should not be used for making your own diagnoses or for the selection and application of treatment methods.