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First Aid : dog fractures

Signs of a broken bone are: pain at or near the fracture site (some dogs will not allow the limb to be handled), swelling and bruising, unnatural movement or loss of function (some dogs will hold the leg up), deformity such as twisted or shortened, a grating noise if the bone fragments move against each other, and lastly shock due to pain or blood loss.

Fractures may be closed – where the skin is unbroken; or open – where a wound leads to the fracture or the bone may be exposed. Open fractures are generally more serious as infection may result and more care is required for successful healing.

Broken bones should be immobilized, before transporting your dog. If it’s a limb, you can make a splint out of two pieces of wood, tongue depressors or heavy cardboard tied on with gauze, tape or other bandaging material. If the bone is protruding, pack the area with sterile, absorbent bandaging materials to control bleeding. If possible, use a wooden plank, blanket or coat as a stretcher and have another person help you carry the pet. If you must move him yourself, don’t hold him around the abdomen. Pick him up with one arm under the fore legs and one under the hind limbs.

The first thing to do is restrict your dog’s movement and keep him as quiet as possible, then try to transfer him to a small enclosed area, such as a bathroom. Try to support the leg when moving the animal by resting the leg on a towel or in your hand.

If there is severe bleeding cover all wounds.

If the bone is not exposed apply a dry bandage. If the bone is above the skin it might dry out so you’ll need to apply a wet bandage. Be very careful about cleanliness.

Apply a bandage or a splint if your dog will allow you – otherwise keep your pet as quiet as possible until you are able to transport him.

Allow your dog to make himself comfortable rather than force it into a position you think will be comfortable.

Supporting the fracture helps to prevent pain and swelling. In closed fractures it may prevent the bone penetrating the skin.

Bandaging an open fracture helps prevent contamination and prevents the bone from drying out.

Only fractures below the elbow and below the knee can be easily bandaged. Use
lots of padding. Bandage above and below the joints of the affected bone.

Don’t attempt to ‘set’ or ‘support’ the bone, as you can cause the bone to puncture the skin.

Wash any piece of bone that has been sheared off and put in a clean container. Take it along to the veterinarian with the dog.

If you suspect a dislocation due to direct force such as being hit by a car, or if a leg is caught while his body is still in motion, treat the injury as a fracture.

Do not try to immobilize dislocations above the elbow or knee. For dislocations below these areas treat as for a fracture.
Transport your pet to the vet as soon as possible. You can use a board or large blanket as a stretcher, and if there are any bleeding areas, you can apply a clean cloth or bandage gently to the area for protection and mild pressure.

Related Pages

Dog first aid essential advice on first aid for dogs

Dog first aid kit – essential first aid items


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