Do puppy leg bones break easily? As traumatic events, fractures are relatively common in puppies. Most fracture cases can be prevented, but no matter how careful you are, accidents can happen.
Most traumatic events that lead to fractures in puppies occur while exercising. However, this does not mean you should not exercise your puppy. Physical activity is vital for your puppy’s overall health and development.
In this article we will discuss everything you need to know about leg fractures in puppies – from how they occur through which fractures are common to what happens at the vet’s office.
Fractures in Puppies
Fracture is a medical term used for a broken bone. There are different type of fractures and they can be classified based on many factors, including – fracture location, complexity of the injury, and skin status (intact or pierced).
Are certain puppies more prone to leg fractures? Fractures can occur in all puppies. However, small and toy dog breed puppies are more likely to sustain fractures simply because their bones accordingly with their size are smaller and more fragile.
Fractures are also more likely to occur in puppies with rickets. Rickets is medical condition that occurs in young puppies due to vitamin D and calcium deficiencies.
Rickets is fairly rare in modern puppies because, nowadays, most puppy feeding formulas are complete and nutritionally balanced. However, the condition comes with certain effects that are worth mentioning, including higher risk of fractures.
Do Puppy Leg Bones Break Easily?
Yes, contrary to popular belief puppies are not as resilient as thought. They are fragile little creatures and so are their bones.
Bones reach maximum strength and density after the puppy goes through puberty. In the early puppy period the bones are less dense and lesser density means higher fracture risk. So yes, puppy bones are fragile.
Signs of Leg Fractures in Puppies
Fractures in puppies are always due to a traumatic event – a puppy hit by a car, inadequate jumping, wrong landing after a jump, car hits, and falling from a higher surface.
In general, a puppy with a fractured, broken leg will show the following clinical signs and symptoms:
- Crying, whining, or whimpering
- Limping or lameness
- Pain upon touching the area
- Reluctance to eat
- Extreme lethargy.
Of course, if you notice any of these signs of a leg fracture in your puppy, you should see your veterinarian promptly.
Types of Puppy Leg Fractures
Based on type and distribution there are several different leg bone fractures in puppies.
Closed fractures occur when the damage affects solely the bone and the skin above that bone is intact. A closed fracture is usually followed by swelling of the leg, pain when moving the limb, inability to bear weight on the limb, and intense whimpering.
Open (Compound) Fracture
This is a particularly dangerous fracture type because it also affects the skin. Open or compound fractures put the puppy at danger of developing a severe infection because bacteria can easily enter through the open wound.
Open fractures are accompanied by swelling, bleeding, extreme pain, and more often than not, visible bone sticking through the skin wound.
Greenstick fractures actually refer to bone cracking rather than actual breaking. Greenstick fractures manifest with limping and swelling.
They can often be managed with splints. However, if improperly healed, greenstick fractures can result in long-term lameness and reduced joint mobility.
Growth Plate Fractures
Growth plates are the end portions of the long, growing bones. The growth plates are made of dividing bone cells that help the bone increase in length as the puppy grows. The puppy's growth plates close and the puppy stops growing when it reaches puberty.
Before the plates close, they are particularly susceptible to injury, the two most common injury types include: fracturing the growth plate and a crushing fracture that will cause deformity or permanent shortening of the bone.
In case of growth plate fractures splints rarely work. The treatment of choice most vets recommend is surgery.
Crushing fractures are much trickier – they are rarely diagnosed in a timely manner and they cannot be treated or corrected.
More often than not, the leg twisting or shorter length become apparent weeks or even months after the injury.
The 5 Most Common Leg Fractures in Puppies
Because of their extreme fragility and rambunctious, adventurous nature puppies are most likely to sustain the following leg bone fractures.
Hip Fractures in Puppies
Hip fractures usually occur as a result of traumatic falls. Hip fractures a relatively complicated and require specific managing approach. If the broken hip is repairable, the vet will use pins to correct the break.
In more complicated cases, the head of the femur (hip joint ball) will have to be removed to achieve proper bone stabilization.
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Tibial Crest Fractures in Puppies
The tibial crest represents the front, top part of the shin bone. In puppies, tibial crest fractures usually occur as a result of falling trauma.
This type of fractures is pretty straightforward in terms of management and requires inserting pins through the broken fragments.
Elbow Fractures in Puppies
The arm bone or humerus is located between the elbow and the shoulder. Trauma involving the humerus can fracture the external portion of the elbow – the so-called lateral condyle.
Elbow fractures in puppies occur when the pup jumps from furniture or from a person’s lap or arms and lands incorrectly.
Repairing elbow fractures requires a combination of screws and pins.
Radius-Ulna Fractures in Puppies
The forelimb consists of two bones – radius and ulna. Usually when trauma affects one of these bones the other one breaks too. The most common breaking point is just above the wrist.
Radius-ulna fractures in puppies occur when they jump from furniture of other higher surfaces and then land incorrectly.
More often than not, the surgical correction requires plates and screws. Splints should not be used in puppies from small breeds because their blood vessels are specific and different than in large breed puppies.
Toe Fractures in Puppies
Toe fractures in puppies can stem from both falling and incorrect jumping. Sometimes, a toe fracture can be the result of someone stepping on the puppy’s paw.
Toe fractures should be lined up with pins. To ensure proper healing and adequate support the vet will probably put a splint too.
At the Vet's Office
As in any other case the vet will start the diagnostic procedure by performing a full physical examination. During the examination the vet will take your puppy’s history and ask questions about the specific injury.
To confirm the diagnosis the vet will order x-rays of the affected leg. The x-ray images will also help determine the type of fracture and the severity of its consequences.
Treatment of Leg Fractures in Puppies
There are different techniques for stabilizing bone fractures in puppies. Which techniques will be used depends on several factors including:
- Type of fracture
- Equipment available at the vet’s office
- Presence of other injuries
- Exact age
- Overall health status
- Financial consideration.
All techniques have the same goals: rebuilding the puppy's broken leg bone and fixing the bone into position.
For simpler fractures, the vet may try to stabilize the fracture with a splint or padded bandage. Applying a cast or splint without surgical bone correction is advisable only in cases of moderate fractures and when there are financial constrictions.
In cases of more sever breaks, the vet will recommend performing a surgery and using metallic implants to stabilize the fractured bone. There are many different metallic implants, including wires, pins, screws, nails, plates, and fixators.
The exact cost of treating leg fractures in puppies varies based on the severity of the break and type of stabilization. Generally speaking, a simple cast can cost around $200 while complicated surgical corrections can cost over $1000 or even over $2000.
Puppy Leg Fracture Recovery Period
Because of their natural curiosity and inability to stay calm, puppies will try to use their fractured legs even before they heal. Therefore, during the recovery period you need to constantly monitor your puppy and follow the vet’s instructions.
The most important thing is adhering to the medications schedule usually consisting of antibiotics and painkillers, or non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs.
The second thing is cage rest and preventing physical activity as this can aggravate the situation. Your puppy needs to be resting and go out only for short potty breaks.
During the rest period, it is important to keep your puppy mentally stimulated. There are many interactive, mental games you and your puppy can play together.
These special recommendations need to be followed until good bone healing is achieved. Generally speaking, in puppies, fractures need around four weeks to heal.
However, full return to normal activity is not recommended for at least two to three months. The exact timeframes need to be discussed with the vet.
All in all, puppy bones are much more fragile than adult dog bones. However, bone fractures also heal faster in puppies than adults. Most of the leg fractures in puppies occur while exercising.
The fracture incidence should not repel you from exercising your pup. Exercise helps your puppy develop properly – both physically and mentally.
If you are not sure which exercise regimen is best for your puppy, talk to your trusted veterinarian. The vet will help you make a good exercise plan based on your puppy’s breed, age, diet, and physical activity needs.