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What is a Pathological Bone Fracture in Dogs?

When it comes to bone fractures in dogs, there are several types. Fractures seen in dogs can be categorized into two main categories: open and closed fractures. The term open fracture refers to fractures that communicate with outside. In other words, the broken bone penetrates through the skin and is exposed. Closed fractures instead refer to fractures that do not communicate with the outside. In other words, the broken bone remains encased within the skin. Fortunately, according to the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, most fractures involving dogs are closed. Another type of fracture involving dogs, is a pathological fracture. Do you know what a pathological fracture in dogs is? Today's trivia question therefore is:

What is a Pathological Fracture?

A) A fracture caused by an underlying disease

B) A fracture caused by trauma such as an automobile injury or a fall.

C) A fracture that breaks in several parts

D) A fracture caused by an unknown reason.

The correct answer is: drum roll please....


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The correct answer is A, a pathological fracture in dogs is a fracture caused by an underlying disease.

About Dog Pathological Fractures 


Normal and healthy dog bones are quite resistant to wear and tear and, unless exposed to traumatic events, they are quite resistant to fracturing.

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Bone density in dogs isn't not lost as much as in humans, which is likely why osteoporosis in dogs is quite rare.

Osteoporosis, which is very common in post-menopausal human women, is therefore not a widely accepted diagnosis for dogs among veterinarians, also because dogs don't go into menopause as human women do.

Healthy dogs are also (in most cases) fed a balanced, high-quality diet provided with all the nutrients they need to develop and maintain healthy bones.

Dogs therefore should not need calcium supplementation for healthy bones as their foods already contain adequate amounts of the minerals in proper balance with other minerals, explains veterinarian Dr. Erika Raines.

Causes of Pathological Fractures in Dogs

dog pain goes away at the vet

A fracture in a dog occurring without a history of trauma is suspected to be occurring because of an underlying condition that weakens the bone. When a bone is weakened to a certain extent, it reaches a point where it'll spontaneously break or it takes very little trauma to break it.

What conditions in dogs are known for causing pathological fractures in dogs? Unfortunately, one of the most common causes of pathological fractures are bone cancers. Osteosarcoma in dogs is known to cause bone to be destroyed from the inside out. As the bone is destroyed, tumorous bone replaces it, but it's not as strong as regular bone and therefore has a tendency to break.

Bone cancer in dogs can often be confirmed by x-ray. Because a bone that is broken because of cancer is not going to heal properly, amputation is often recommended, explains veterinarian Dr. Christine M.  Splints and casts are unfortunately not helpful for pathological fractures due to bone cancer. Some big universities though may offer limb sparing options.

Other possible causes for pathological fractures in dogs include osteomyelitis; an infection of the bone, an endocrine disorder known as hyperparathyroidism, and malnourishment although this is very rare in dogs fed a normal diet, explains veterinarian Dr. Scott Nimmo. When it comes to pathological fractures of the jaw in dogs, these can be due to severe periodontal disease secondary to bone loss, explains Dr. Niemiec a veterinarian specializing in animal dentistry. These fractures of the lower jaw are quite common in small and toy breed dogs and can happen with very mild force during innocent activities such as eating or playing with a toy.

" While typically fractures occur after a traumatic incident, such as being hit by a car or falling from a height, some fractures occur following a pathologic weakening of the bone, which is seen with certain neoplastic conditions, such as osteosarcoma."~Today's Veterinary Practice

Photo Credits:

Flick, Creative Commons, F Delventhal, Schuyler's Cast CCBY2.0

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