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Canine Fracture and Broken Bones; First Aid

Broken bones are extremely painful and require immediate veterinary attention.
If your pet has broken a bone, be very careful when moving them. They are likely to be in a lot of pain and may bite you if they are scared and hurting, use a muzzle to protect yourself.

Your veterinarian can help you decide how best to fix the fracture and if referral to a specialist is in your pet’s best interest. Although splinting will allow a small number of fractures to heal, most will require surgery to ensure the best outcome.

Some signs to look for include a leg that looks misshapen, hangs limply, cannot support body weight, and is swollen. Also watch out for signs of shock, which include pale or white gums, a rapid heartbeat, or rapid breathing.

First Aid Materials

  • Muzzle or leash for restraint
  • Clean water, betadine or saline solution to clean wounds
  • Splint material: sticks, straightened wire hanger (tape the ends so the rough edges will not further injure your dog), stiff cardboard, rolled newspaper or magazine, rulers
  • Gauze, strips of fabric or tape (to secure splint)
  • Towel or strong flat board for support or to help carry him

Stay calm

If you suspect your dog has a broken leg, it’s important to stay calm. If you panic, you’ll cause your dog to be anxious and afraid on top of being in pain. The faster his injury can be examined and assessed by a vet, the better your dog’s chances of healing will be.

Evaluate The Dog for More Severe Injuries

If your dog has just experienced a traumatic event, take a moment to assess your dog. Check to see if he has more serious injuries, then you will need to address these first before dealing with the broken leg. If the injury occurred on a road, move the dog to a safe place and then administer emergency first aid.

Restrain Your Dog

First, restrain your pet by placing a muzzle on him and getting him leashed if he’s large or wrapped in a large towel or blanket if he’s small. You may be prepared with a muzzle in your canine first aid kit, or you may need to make a homemade muzzle.

Put a Leg-splint on Your Dog

You should prevent the fracture from getting any worse by applying a simple leg-splint. Use a medical splint or, if you don’t have one, a ruler or a spatula will do the trick! The splint should cover the entire area of the fracture and should extend past the joints above and below the fracture. It may go all the way up to where the leg meets the abdomen. Tie the splint to the leg with a bandage and secure it with medical tape at the top and the bottom.

Transporting The Injured Dog

Transporting an injured dog can worsen injuries, so proceed with caution. Carry small dogs to the car while supporting the head and hips. Lay the dog down with the injured leg up. For larger dogs that can walk on 3 legs, gently help them into the vehicle. If the dog cannot walk, use a blanket as a sling to carry her. When you reach the emergency clinic, ask for assistance in getting your dog out of the vehicle.

Veterinary Care

The vet will examine the break and treat it accordingly. This may include administering medications to control the pain and a general anesthetic to re-set or stabilize the bone. Dislocations should also be treated with the aid of anesthesia; in fact, you should never attempt to re-set a bone at home.


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