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Dog [Broken Leg]: Everything You Should Do

When our dogs hurt, we hurt. 

Dogs are an integral part of our families. When our dogs seem seriously injured, it’s incredibly upsetting for all parties involved. 

While they mostly experience minor injuries to paws and legs several times over their lifespan, their legs sometimes break from falls, car accidents, or brittle bones in older dogs. 

Since our dogs can't talk to us, it can be difficult to tell whether the injury is severe or not. You can look for the following signs that your pup has done severe damage: excessive whining, yelping, and refusal to move or put weight on the limb. 

If you suspect your pup has broken its leg, do the visual test below and then take them straight to the vet. 

Read more about diagnosis, symptoms, and how to treat and prevent dog broken legs below.

The telltale signs of a broken leg

For dogs, broken legs are sometimes easy to spot, like in the spine-chilling case of a bone poking out of the dog's skin, also called an open fracture.

For more minor breaks, or closed fractures, the situation can look less obvious - it's hard to see what's causing your dog's distress. 

You may wonder, 'Why is my dog limping?' 

Is my dog's leg broken or sprained? 

How do you distinguish between a minor leg injury and one that needs a vet's professional attention? 

Here are a few obvious signs that your pup may have a broken leg:

  • Crying due to intense pain;
  • Limping;
  • Swelling at the site of the injury;
  • Bumps and lumps at the site of the leg injury;
  • Refusal to walk, lie down, or put any pressure on the limb;
  • Excessive licking of the location of the injury

Can a dog walk on a broken leg?

Most dogs will refuse to walk on a broken leg. For a significant break in your dog s leg, walking will be impossible. For more minor fractures, a dog may be able to walk with varying levels of pain. 

Although the dog might not be in obvious discomfort, you can examine your pup at home before you head to the vet to check your dog. Broken limb testing can be done visually. 

Check for the signs and symptoms above. If you're still unsure if you should head to the vet, grab a family member or friend to help you examine the leg. 

One person needs to hold the dog and offer loving comfort as the process may be a little stressful for the pup. The other can assess the dog's pain level, swelling, and any lumps in the area. Make sure only to look, and not touch, as touching may cause a lot of unnecessary pain.

Does a dog cry when its leg is broken?

Dogs are very communicative animals, especially with their owners - these are the people they love and trust the most. 

A dog with broken leg will cry, whine, yelp, and whimper when they are in significant pain. Dogs are expressive and will let you know when something is wrong. Give them comfort, and get them to the vet ASAP.

Diagnosis of a broken bone for dogs

In the case of a broken leg for dog, a veterinarian can properly diagnose the injury.

First, you need to get your dog to the vet - which can be tricky when they're seriously injured. Be very careful lifting the dog into your car and avoid touching the affected leg altogether. If your dog is large, wrap him in a blanket and carry it with a partner like a sling. Lay the dog down in the backseat on their uninjured side. 

Your dog may be aggressive and protective of his injury. Place a muzzle over his face if you have one and if you feel it's necessary during transport. 

Once at the veterinary clinic, your vet can x-ray the dog's leg to assess and confirm the break. 

The next steps: proper treatment for a dog's broken leg 

With a dog fractured leg, your vet may have to perform surgery to fix the problem internally. Screws, steel plates, and pins are often inserted and attached to the bone if reinforcement is needed. Bone exposed outside of the body in open fractures needs to be reset surgically before closing the wound.

For less minor breaks, you may get away with an external treatment like a cast or a splint. 

In the case of minor fractures, rest may be the only treatment required. 

The typical healing time for a puppy's broken leg is four weeks, and older dogs need approximately eight weeks of healing time. 

Costs of treatment

Dog care and pet care, in general, usually comes with a hefty price tag. The treatment for broken bones isn't cheap, but it's also not as expensive as other surgeries, which can get up to tens of thousands of dollars. 

It will cost you, on average, between $200 to $1,000 for the treatment of a broken leg, depending on the severity and treatment required.

Can the leg heal on its own?

Bones can heal on their own in the case of fractures, but you should always let the vet guide the healing process.

A bone that isn't appropriately set after a break can heal incorrectly, leading to significant issues down the line with mobility.

If you choose to go down the road of natural healing, you'll need to keep the dog immobilized as much as possible to give the injury time to rest and heal.

How to help the healing process

After you've returned home with your patched-up pet, you have a long 4-8 week recovery period ahead. In the meanwhile, you can provide your pet care by doing a few things around the house to help avoid reinjury, speed the healing process, and keep the dog in good spirits.

  • Carry as needed. In the first few days especially, your pup will be pretty lethargic but still needs to get outside to do his business. Carrying your dog out and in as required will help him from stressing his leg too much. 
  • Ice the leg. Ice the leg for the first few days to reduce swelling and inflammation. Leave the ice on for 2-3 minutes, then take off for 5-10. Repeat a few times, but don't leave the ice on the wound for an extended period as this can cause an ice burn.
  • Get a ramp. Your dog shouldn't be jumping to get on your bed or chairs. Buy a dog ramp to assist him onto the bed and other surfaces. This will give him back a bit of independence without stressing the injury.
  • Use the crate. If your dog is excited to move before they should, keep them in a crate a little more than usual to prevent extra movements. 
  • Do your own rehab. Under the guidance of a vet, you can provide dog care with gentle massage and flexing the joints as the injury heals.

Broken bone prevention

A pet's broken bone can be expensive and time-consuming to fix, and incredibly upsetting and painful for our furry friends. 

Although we can't predict every accident, and some are unavoidable, there are ways you can avoid and prevent a broken limb. 

  • Keep your pet leashed whenever you're outside of your home or fenced-in area. Running into the street can be a little too tempting for some dogs!
  • Feed your dog a healthy diet to prevent bone cancer, malnutrition, and other diseases that contribute to brittle bones.
  • Regular exercise will keep bones in tip-top shape and prevent degenerative disease. 
  • As your dog gets older, use dog ramps, soft pillows, and other supportive items around your home to avoid stressing their bones and joints unnecessarily. 

Final notes

If you find your dog in the unfortunate situation of a severe injury, provide comfort first and foremost, as they'll probably be incredibly stressed out. 

Bring them to the veterinarian as soon as you can to reduce the pain and start on a road to recovery.

If your dog is hurting, we wish them a safe and speedy recovery!

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