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Professional Version

Bone Trauma in Dogs and Cats


Joseph Harari

, MS, DVM, DACVS, Veterinary Surgical Specialists, Spokane, WA

Reviewed/Revised Nov 2020 | Modified Oct 2022
Topic Resources

Bone fractures are frequently caused by vehicular accidents, firearms, fights, or falls. Fractures can be open or closed and involve single or multiple bones. Characteristics of the fracture—such as simple, comminuted, oblique, transverse, or spiral—are based on disruptive trauma forces (bending, compression, tension, and rotation).

Clinical signs invariably include lameness, pain, and swelling. Radiography Radiography of Animals Radiography (generation of transmission planar images) is one of the most commonly used diagnostic tools in veterinary practice even though other imaging modalities such as ultrasonography,... read more Radiography of Animals is useful in delineating the fracture pattern. Treatments are based on the type of fracture, age and health of the animal, technical expertise of the surgeon, and owner finances.

Young, healthy dogs with incomplete fractures can be treated with external splints or casts. Other injuries are treated with external (fixators) or internal devices, such as bone plates, screws, orthopedic wires, interlocking nails, and pins. Frequently, cancellous bone grafts are used to augment fracture healing in ill or aged patients. Antibiotics are given for open fractures or prolonged repairs. Perioperative analgesics (eg, epidural morphine, narcotic skin patches, systemic narcotics [including constant-rate infusion], oral NSAIDs Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs in Animals The importance of pain management and the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in animals has increased dramatically in recent decades, and use of NSAIDs in companion animals... read more Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs in Animals ) are used to alleviate discomfort. Physical therapy or rehabilitation is critical to restore limb function and overall well-being.

Prognosis for recovery is usually good, depending on the nature of the injury and success of repairs; successful wound therapy and monitoring of cardiopulmonary and urologic functions are essential. Followup care includes radiographic and clinical assessments of fracture healing. Internal implants may not need to be removed unless complications such as stress protection, infection, or soft-tissue irritation develop.

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