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Bone Trauma in Dogs and Cats


Joseph Harari

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

Last full review/revision Nov 2020 | Content last modified Jan 2021
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 Diagnostic Imaging 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 Diagnostic Imaging 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 The importance of pain management and the use of NSAIDs in animals has increased dramatically in recent decades, with use of NSAIDs in companion animals being routine. NSAIDs have the potential... read more Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs ) 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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Musculoskeletal Disorders in Large Animals
A seven-year-old Quarter horse gelding presents with a 1-week history of mild lameness. During the examination, the horse raises his head as he places weight on his left forelimb and drops it when placing weight on the right forelimb. Which limb is most likely affected in this horse?
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