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tough break: a look at broken bones in pets

  • Dr. Kim
  • Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on
    Staff Veterinarian and Pet Health Writer of Petplan


Sticks and stones may break your bones, but your pet is more likely to suffer from broken bones due to trauma. The most common cause of broken bones in pets is being hit by a car, but falls from high places are also a danger, especially for puppies and kittens.

The very first thing you should do if you suspect that your pet has a broken bone is call your veterinarian (or the closest emergency center, if your vet’s office is closed). They will want to see your pet as soon as possible.

In the meantime, try to keep your pet calm and still. Exercise extreme caution – broken bones are very painful, and your pet may lash out at you due to intense pain. You may need to muzzle your pet to avoid being accidentally bitten. Use a flat board to move your pet to the car if he is a larger breed, or use a carrier for small dogs or cats. The less your pet has to move, the better. Do not attempt to splint the fractured area yourself. Doing so may cause more damage and will put you in more danger of being bitten.

First, your pet’s general health will be assessed. In the case of severe trauma, such as a car accident, a broken bone may not be the most serious ailment your pet has. Your veterinarian will make sure there are no life-threatening injuries and stabilize your pet before deciding on a plan of action for the broken bones. Rest assured, however, that your veterinarian will address your pet’s pain right away.

Once your pet has been stabilized, your vet will address your pet’s broken bone. If she hasn’t taken an X-ray already, she will at this time. Depending on the severity of the fracture, your veterinarian may choose to treat your pet herself, or may need to refer you to an orthopedic surgeon. Simple fractures may heal with just a cast, but more complicated fractures will need pins, screws or plates to heal correctly.

However your pet’s fracture is treated, the post-operative period is a critical time. If your pet has a cast, it will be a daily battle to keep him from chewing on it, especially if your pup or cat is young (or young at heart). Keeping the cast clean and dry is also very important. 

Your veterinarian (or the orthopedic surgeon) will send you home with specific instructions for post-operative care, including restrictions on activity and instructions for physical therapy. If you have questions, be sure to ask. From this point on, your pet’s doctors are relying on you to help your pet through the rest of the healing process, which will take six to eight weeks at a minimum. You’ll probably have several check-up appointments during this time, so you’ll have plenty of opportunity to ask any questions that may arise. But if something comes up in between appointment times, be sure to call right away. 

A pet’s broken bone is not the end of the world, but it sure can feel like it at the time. Fractures can be costly, as well, so having veterinary pet insurance from Petplan can help relieve the pressure on your family budget. Click here to compare pet insurance companies and get free pet insurance quotes to see if it would be a good choice for your family situation.  

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Chris AshtonCo-Founder and Co-CEO of Petplan Pet Insurance
vet tip of the week

Visit your vet at least once a year to keep your pet protected from preventable diseases.