How Do I Know If My Dog Has a Broken Bone and What Should I Do?
Dogs play hard, and it is not unusual to see a dog tossing another to the ground and grabbing his leg during play. If you own a Min Pin, an Italian Greyhound, or one of the other dog breeds with thin legs, every fall is frightening.
It is not unusual for a dog to limp after a play-fight, but when should you worry?
Signs of a Broken Bone in Dogs
Type of Break
Swelling of the joint or toes
Usually not broken, but can be a closed fracture
Inability to bear weight
Closed or open fracture
Leg hangs free, unnaturally
Open or closed fracture
Open or closed fracture
Wound and exposed bone
Bone sticking out through the skin
How To Handle Your Injured Dog
If your dog is limping, but does not have an open wound or a bone sticking out of a wound, you can try the simple exam in the video and pain medication if you really cannot afford to take him to a vet.
Your dog might have internal injuries you cannot see or is suffering from shock. He will also probably be in a lot of pain that you may not be aware of because most dogs will hide their symptoms.
If you have a credit card or any other method to pay the vet, please go ahead and get your dog checked out.
Your dog may not even have a broken leg. This is not a wasted trip to the vet—be happy! The vet might be able to put your dog on some pain meds and suggest rest.
If your dog has an open wound, however, there is no way you can wait. Some of these wounds get dirty quickly and when the bone becomes contaminated, it is very difficult to heal. If you put this off now, your dog might end up lame for the rest of his life, or even have his leg amputated.
What you need to do, of course, is to get your dog in the car and take him to the vet. Unfortunately, a dog in pain may end up biting you, no matter what his normal personality is like.
1. Muzzle your dog
Most dogs will already be down, but if your dog is still standing up try to encourage him to lie down. (Don’t force it. If he does not want to lie down it may be because he is in a lot of pain in the down position.) If you have roll gauze around the house, it makes a good quick muzzle. Just slip it over your dogs muzzle and wrap it around a few times. Do not make it too tight, and when his mouth is closed tie the gauze off behind his ears.
(Watch the video for details on how to do this correctly. I suggest you practice now when your dog is healthy.)
If you do not have gauze, muzzle your dog with a leash. You may not feel comfortable muzzling your dog, but besides keeping you from being bitten, the light pressure on his muzzle sometimes helps to calm him down.
2. Put on a temporary splint before trying to move your dog
Next thing you should do before moving him is to keep the bone from moving and becoming worse. If you have an idea where the fracture is you can splint it with a rolled up magazine and some duct tape, but do not try to put the bone back into position before applying the temporary splint.
Roll the magazine around the leg and put the tape on the outside of the magazine, not on your dog´s leg. If he screams in pain when you try to splint the leg just leave him be and put him on the board that you are going to use to transport him.
If your dog has an open fracture put a gauze pad (from your first aid kit) on top of the wound to keep it as clean as possible. If you have not made up a first aid kit, at least cover the wound with a paper towel.
3. Put your dog in the car and take him to the vet
A small dog can be lifted up and carried. Put one hand under the belly and use the other to support his chest and draw him up next to you.
If you have a big dog, or you are worried that your small dog has a broken back, pick him up and put him on a board. Look around right now. What do you have around your house that you can use to move your dog?
Move him to the car and put him in the back seat. You should already have a regular vet, but even if you do not almost every clinic will be willing to help you.
Do I really need to do all of this?
A broken bone might heal up with just a cast and some rest, but unless you take your dog into the vet and get him checked out you are not going to be sure of that.
Remember that your dog is like a child—he depends on you to do the right thing.
This is the best method of applying an emergency muzzle. It does take some practice, however, so now is the time to try it, not when your dog is injured and needs your help.
This muzzle is only for emergency situations, and does not allow your dog to pant normally like with a "cage type" commercial muzzle. If you really need it, though, it is quick and may help.
Watch this now so you will be prepared if you ever need it.
Questions & Answers
© 2014 Dr Mark