Fracture Repair

Fracture Repair

At San Diego Bay Animal Hospital, we are capable of performing a wide variety of fracture repairs in dogs and cats. We are fully equipped to handle fracture repair for any type of situation, including fractures of the radius / ulna (forelimbs), femur, tibia, humerus (leg bones), paws and ilium (pelvis bone).

What you may see :

The first sign that your pet has a fracture, or broken bone, may be holding up the affected limb or not bearing full weight on the limb.

Our pets often don’t “cry” or vocalize after a fracture has occurred. It may be difficult to know if they are in pain. Not fully using a limb or limping are definitely signs of pain in animals. You may also notice swelling, pain, or abnormal movement at the affected site.


When you get to the hospital your pet may be immediately taken to the treatment room to be triaged if there has been a accident, such as hit by car. Often a pain injection will be given and x-rays taken to make sure there is no life threatening injuries. The x-rays will be evaluated by one of our veterinarians then you will be taken to see the x-rays. Depending on the extent of the fracture it maybe able to be splinted for healing.

When there is a fracture, or broken bone, that is diagnosed on x-ray one of the first things that may happen is that the veterinarian will place a splint or bandage to immobilize the limb. Splint placement will help stabilize the fracture site to decrease the chance of further damage to muscle and nerves and will help decrease pain.

Background on Fracture Types

A bone can break or fracture in many ways and veterinary surgeons classify fractures into several categories.

First, a fracture can be Open or Closed. This is in reference to whether or not the skin has been broken. An Open fracture is where the skin is broken and the bone could be contaminated. This can be an emergency and should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible due to concern for infection and other complications.

  • Incomplete: a fracture that is more like a bend in the bone; the bone may only be broken partway around the circumference of the bone; most commonly seen in young animals.
  • Complete: the bone is broken through its full circumference and two or more bone fragments are created.

Complete fractures are further described based on the shape of the break:

  • Transverse: the break is straight across the bone at a right angle to the length of the bone
  • Oblique: the break is at a diagonal across the bone, creating two bone fragments with sharp points.
  • Comminuted: the break is in three or more pieces of varying shapes. (pictured to right)


There are multiple different methods for fixing a fracture to keep the bone from moving. The most important aspect of fracture fixation is immobilization of the bone to allow time for it to heal.



  • Young, Quiet and Calm Patients
  • Healthy, Eating, Good weight
  • Small/medium Size
  • Single limb injury
  • Closed Fractures
  • Low Impact Break
  • Transverse Fractures
  • Close Post Operative Supervision
  • Properly Restricted Activity
  • Older Patients
  • Bouncy, Active Patients
  • Sick, Debilitated Patients
  • Giant or Toy Size Patient
  • Open Fractures, Infection
  • Other Injuries Sustained in Trauma
  • High impact break
  • Comminuted Fractures
  • Minimal supervision Post Operatively
  • Freely Active - Not Restricted

Internal Fixation & Surgery

More advanced methods for fixation for complicated fractures are placing plates, pins and screws into the bone. This allows the best and strongest method for repairing fractures. This is considered internal fixation. This method often takes 6-8 weeks for healing of the bone with new bone formation and will require recheck exams and x-rays to confirm adequate healing of the bone.

To the right we have a picture of a radial fracture repair with a bone plate in a cat. The ulna is also fractured, but because it is not a weight bearing bone, it will heal because the radius is now stabilized and the limb is being strictly rested.

Just to the right, we have a picture of a tibial fracture that as been repaired with an intramedullary pin and cerclage wires. The wires are used to help hold the bone against shearing forces of the oblique fracture. This dog has healed perfectly and is now one of the fastest at dog beach!

To the far right we have a picture of Humpty with an external fixator for a femur fracture repair. An external fixator is used to stabilize fractures by placing a pin in each side of the fracture site connected by a bar on the outside of the patient.

External Fixation - Casting & Splints

For some simple or hair line fractures a splint can be applied for means of repair. This is a form of external fixation. A splint or cast can only be applied if the joints above and below the fracture site can be immobilized, like the tibia and radius / ulna, or certain bone fractures in feet. The splint must be changed every 1- 7 days depending of various circumstances that our veterinarians will discuss with you. A splint is a great option for fixation of some simple fractures but the patient MUST be kept calm and strictly confined and kept clean and dry. This method often takes 4-8 to sometimes 12 weeks for healing of the bone and will require recheck exams and possible x-rays to confirm healing of the bone.

Justin, the adorable Frenchie to the left here, did great with splinting a tibial avulsion fracture! He loves seeing his orthopedic technician Holly. A lot of veterinarians recommend surgery for tibial avulsion fractures – but this is an example where this type of fracture can actually heal better by just splinting.

What care is required after surgery?

Your pet will usually be discharged the day following surgery. Activity will be restricted for approximately 8-12 weeks – it is most critical for the first eight weeks while the bone is healing. We thoroughly discuss aftercare and rehabilitation at the pre-surgical consult and at the time of discharge.

LASER THERAPY is a great way to help speed your pet’s healing after surgery. It reduces pain, reduces inflammation, and increases healing speed through a quick, non-invasive, non-painful treatment. Most treatments take just a few minutes and all your pet feels is the gentle, soothing warmth of the laser. Ask us for more details. We are happy to offer this service to help pets feel better and recover faster! MORE INFO

Click here to read about Bella's Recovery

Fracture Repair