Have you noticed your dog limping or whining? Maybe you witnessed your dog take a hard fall? If this is the case, there is a chance that your dog is suffering from a broken leg. You should seek immediate medical attention for your dog. A veterinarian will be able to identify the type of fracture and give the proper course of treatment, so your dog can begin feeling better as soon as possible!
In today’s article, veterinarian Dr. Chyrle Bonk will go over how to tell if your dog has a broken leg. In general, if your dog is noticeably limping, whining, aggressive, and you notice some swelling, they may have a broken leg. We will explore the different types of leg breaks and what to do.
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Types of Breaks
Before we get into the tell-tale signs of broken bones, it is essential to understand the different types of possible breaks. Although it may sound straightforward (it’s either it’s broken or it’s not), different severities go along with each different type of fracture. Knowing the different kinds of breaks can help you identify whether your dog has a broken leg or not.
- Complete Fractures: A complete fracture means that the bone has completely broken into two or more pieces. Within this category of fractures, you can find 3 subcategories that describe the break. First, there is a Transverse break; this means that the break runs along the length of the bone. Secondly, you can have an Oblique break; this type of break means that the fracture occurs on a diagonal along the bone. Often with Oblique breaks, the ends of the bones are left with sharp points. The last kind of fracture is a Comminuted fracture; this means that the bone has been broken into three or more pieces and does not follow a specific pattern or direction.
- Incomplete Fractures: This type of fracture means that the bone is not separated into multiple pieces. There may be chips or cracks in the bones with incomplete fractures, but the bone itself is still mostly intact.
- Closed Fractures: A closed fracture occurs within the limb that the bone is enclosed in. As their namesake suggests, closed fractures remain closed, meaning no outside wound or puncture mark is visible.
- Open Fractures: If you are squeamish, brace yourself. Open fractures occur when a broken bone punctures the skin and is visible. Open fractures can also be a result of a deep puncture wound from outside the body. If a puncture wound is deep enough, it can make contact with the bone and actually cause a fracture.
Break vs. Sprain
Sometimes, what appears to be a break to the average person might actually be just a sprain. First, you will need to understand what breaks and sprains mean, respectively. A break occurs when the bone in your dog’s leg fractures. As mentioned above, there are different kinds of breaks that your dog can suffer from.
On the other hand, a sprain occurs when bone-connecting ligaments are damaged. While a break affects the bone itself, a sprain is more likely to affect joints and the soft tissues of the leg. Both of these injuries can be extremely painful, so it is recommended that you bring your dog to the vet if you suspect a break or a sprain.
Signs of a Broken Leg
Unlike humans, a dog can’t tell you when it needs to go to a doctor. However, dogs can give you indicators when they are feeling pain. Below is a list of common signs to look for if you suspect your dog has a broken leg. If your dog exhibits these symptoms, you should take it to the vet. Even if it doesn’t have a fractured leg, chances are the vet will be able to find whatever it is that is causing your dog discomfort.
- Whining/Howling: Dogs that are in pain often whine or whimper. If you find that your dog is exhibiting this behavior, chances are it is trying to tell you something. Some dogs may even howl to get your attention. If your dog is playing and lets out a sharp howl or whine, it is essential to examine it for any other indicators of injury.
- Aggression: If you have an amiable dog but find it becoming aggressive, it may be a sign that something is wrong. Often, dogs that are in pain become aggressive towards people as a defense mechanism. It is a natural instinct for a dog to want to protect itself when it is in pain. So, if you suspect your dog may have a broken leg, it may not let you touch or handle it easily.
- Swelling: Another standard indicator that a bone is broken is swelling around the break. If you notice your dog is experiencing swelling of the leg, there is a chance it is suffering from a break.
- Bruising: Bruising may be hard to observe depending on the color of your dog. However, if you have a light-colored dog and you can see visible bruising of the skin, there is a chance that something is broken.
- Visible Bones: Unfortunately, bones that break at certain angles can puncture the skin and visibly protrude. You may also notice bones within the skin that are bent at odd angles. Even when the bone itself hasn’t punctured the skin, the angle of bones is an excellent indicator of whether they are broken or not.
- Limping/Inability to Bear Weight: If you find your dog limping, there is a chance that a bone has been damaged. If your dog cannot bear its own body weight, this is a sign that something is wrong with one of its legs. So, even if your dog’s leg isn’t broken, there is likely another underlying cause for limping that your vet will be able to assist with.
Transporting Your Dog to the Vet
As mentioned before, if you suspect your dog has a broken leg, you should seek immediate medical attention. It is essential to be careful when transporting your dog to the vet, potentially making the problem worse. There are some tips and tricks that will help make your trip to the vet more comfortable for you and your dog.
- Muzzle: Dogs that are in pain may be harder to handle than usual. Even if you have a very well-tempered dog, it may still need to be muzzled for transportation. As mentioned before, dogs will naturally try to protect themselves when they are in pain. So, if your dog has a broken leg, it may display aggressive behavior, unlike its normal personality. Muzzling your injured dog will also help the vet provide care as fast as possible. It will prevent your dog from becoming more afraid of the stranger trying to help. Once you have muzzled your dog, you can move on to the next step, which, unfortunately, will likely make your dog even more uncomfortable (though it’ll help in the long run).
- Splint: Now that your dog is muzzled, you can put a temporary splint around the fracture. You can do this using an old magazine and some tape. It is important not to touch the bone or try to put it back into position while doing this. If you do not know where the fracture is, then skip this part and gently help it to the car. Try to ensure your dog puts as little weight as possible on its injured leg.
- Car: When your dog makes it safely to the car, try to keep it lying on its uninjured side. Drive carefully and try to ensure the dog stays in place while in the car to prevent any worsening of the injury.
- Vet: Once you arrive at the vet’s office, notify someone, and they can help transport your dog from the car into the office. Now your dog can get professional medical care!
How Long Does it Take to Heal a Dog’s Broken Leg?
After you have safely arrived at the vet, you may be wondering how long your dog will need to heal. Typically, younger dogs need about 4 weeks to heal a broken bone, while older dogs need closer to 8 weeks to heal. However, this can vary slightly based on the dog and the type of fracture that has occurred.
This healing process will take much longer and even leave lasting damage if you do not bring your dog to a professional. If you leave a dog’s broken leg untreated, the bone will begin to mend itself. However, the dog cannot set its bones in the proper position, so the fusion that takes place may leave your dog injured for its entire life.
Conclusion for How To Tell If Your Dog Has a Broken Leg?
Now that you know all there is to know about the signs and symptoms of broken bones, you will be able to help your dog whenever it is in need. So if your dog seems to like it may have a broken leg, do not panic. Always stay calm in this situation as your anxiety can increase your dog’s anxiety which worsens pain.
Remember, the best way for you to help is to identify the problem and adequately transport your dog to a professional veterinarian. Your dog may seem angry at the time, but it will forever appreciate your love and care!
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Dr. Chyrle Bonk received her veterinary degree from Oregon State University in 2010. She has been practicing in a mixed animal clinic in rural Idaho ever since at Clearwater Valley Veterinarian Clinic. When she’s not busy writing, treating animals, or working on her cattle ranch, she may be found somewhere in the Idaho wilderness with her husband and kids. Dr. Chyrle Bonk is a writer for We Love Doodles and verifies that the information we post is accurate the up to date! She is also an advisor and editor.
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