First Aid: How to treat a dog for broken bones

Your dog can suffer a broken bone for a variety of reasons.

The most common reason is a road traffic accident, in which case you will be aware there is an injury know the cause and be able to take the necessary steps to get professional help.

What happens though if your dog develops a slight limp, or won’t let you touch his paw?

How do you determine if there is a broken bone or just an ache, and what treatment, if any, should be administered to ease the pain or reduce long term damage?

Related: All articles on dog first aid.

Identifying the injury

Although the most painful, probably the easiest broken bone to spot is the one where the skin has been broken and the fractured bone is visible. However, just because you can see the bone does not mean it is broken. It is possible the wound is very deep and has gone through to a bone that is intact.

A broken bone that has happened without damaging the skin is harder to diagnose, especially as the symptoms can also indicate other injuries such as muscle or tendon damage, dislocation or ligament injury. Sometimes the only method of diagnosis is an x-ray.

Treating a dog with broken bones

If your dog has been involved in an accident, the first thing to look for and treat is shock (see the next section). Rapid breathing, lapsing into unconsciousness, and low pulse rate are signs of shock, and medical assistance must be obtained as soon as possible.

It is possible for your dog to have a broken bone and not show any obvious signs of such a serious injury. It is therefore important you are aware of your dog’s behaviour so anything out of the ordinary, like not using a particular limb, limping if only slightly or being reluctant to jump up onto the sofa can all be signs of limb damage and possible breaks.

Depending on where the broken bone is will determine your initial course of action. Ultimately your aim is to make your dog comfortable, minimise additional damage, and get him to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Never attempt to set or realign a bone you believe to be broken. The limb and the dog should be immobilised until seen by a medical professional.

Keep your dog warm by wrapping him in a blanket and if necessary put a muzzle on him to prevent yourself from being bitten. A dog in pain, even a docile, friendly dog is liable to bite. Especially if he is in shock.

If you suspect your dog has broken his back it is important you move the dog as little as possible.

Slide a flat board or something that will support his weight underneath him and strap him in place. Cover your dog with a blanket, remain calm, and continue to talk and stroke your dog whilst getting him to the vet immediately.

Damage to the rib cage can cause breathing difficulties. If your dog has broken ribs, take great care when transporting him to the vet. Treat the situation as you would for a broken back and immobilise him to prevent further damage.

All broken bones or suspected breaks must be seen and treated by a medical professional. Remember the first aid in these cases is to reduce the chances of further damage, keep your dog as calm as possible and give as much information about the nature of the injury as you can to the vet in attendance.

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