Broken Bones: What to Do and What to Expect
Prompt immobilization of a fractured bone will prevent a simple break from becoming a compound fracture (where the bone breaks through the skin) or a complicated fracture (damages internal organs). In most situations, broken bones are not life threatening unless they cause bleeding, interfere with breathing (broken ribs) or are crushing a vital organ.
Spotting a broken bone is not always easy. A dog with a broken leg will not usually use the affected leg and there may be swelling around the break site. The dog may hold the leg at an unusual angle or show movement in an area of the leg that should not be mobile. If a break is suspected, do not manipulate. Transport the dog to the veterinarian in the least traumatic manner possible. If the dog is small, hold the dog so the broken limb will hang free.
Although your main aim is to get the dog to the vet as soon as possible, immobilization of the break with a splint can prevent complications. Gently restrain the dog and apply a dog muzzle. Do not attempt to reset the bone. Any straight, firm object can suffice as an emergency splint, as long as it extends past the injured joint, immobilizing the joints above and below the injury. Tape or tie the splint into place so that it is secure, but not so tight that it cuts off circulation.
A back injury must be handled with extreme care. Transport the dog to the vet with the least movement possible. Do not bend the dog's back. Place it on a firm, large board or place it in a box that is large enough so it can lie flat. Skull injuries should be handled in the same manner.