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BROKEN LEG - How to Treat a Dog With a Broken Leg

With dogs, as with human beings, all bones are subject to breakage, but leg fractures are by far the most common. It is important to remember that dogs have a high pain tolerance and often a dangling leg seems to cause no pain. Therefore, don't be afraid to handle the fractured limb (but be gentle!). The dog will let you know if it hurts.

Some signs to look for include a leg that looks misshapen, hangs limply, cannot support body weight, and is swollen. Also watch out for signs of shock, which include pale or white gums, a rapid heartbeat, or rapid breathing.

To provide proper care for your dog's broken bone, use the following tips.

  • Restrain the dog if necessary.
  • Approach the dog slowly, speaking in a reassuring tone of voice.
  • Slip a leash around the dog's neck, then place the leash around a fixed object. Pull the dog against this object and tie the leash so the dog cannot move its head.
  • Muzzle the dog to protect yourself.
  • Examine the leg and determine if the fracture is open (wound near the break or bone protruding from the skin) or closed (no break in the skin).
  • If the fracture is closed, proceed to Step 4. If the fracture is open:
  • Flush the wound thoroughly with saline solution (9g/2 level teaspoons of salt dissolved in 1L lukewarm previously boiled water).
  • Cover the wound with a sterile bandage, clean cloth, or sanitary napkin.
  • DO NOT attempt to splint the fracture. Hold a large folded towel under the un-splinted limb and transport the dog immediately to the veterinarian.
  • If the broken limb is grossly misshapen or the dog appears to be in great pain when you attempt to splint, stop and proceed to the last step. Otherwise, proceed to splint the bone.
  • Use any splint material available - sticks, rolled up newspaper, magazine, or stiff cardboard. The object is to immobilize the limb, not reset it.
  • Attach the splints to the fractured leg with torn strips of cloth or gauze.
  • Tape or tie the strips firmly but not so tightly that circulation may be impaired.
  • Transport the dog immediately to the veterinarian.
  • If the broken limb is grossly misshapen or the dog appears to be in great pain when you attempt to splint, hold a large towel under the un-splinted limb for support and transport the dog immediately to the veterinarian.
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