Dogs are often beloved members of a family. When they are injured, it can be difficult to know how to react and care for them. A broken leg is a serious health concern and, even with the proper care, the dog’s leg can suffer permanent deformity or issues like chronic arthritis. However, knowing what to do and what not to do can minimize or eliminate long-term problems.
Rule 1: Protect Yourself
If a dog has suffered a possible broken leg, immediate steps are necessary to minimize further damage. However, even the most gentle pets might react violently in response to pain or panic, so it is important to protect yourself before administering first aid. Speak to the animal soothingly and approach him slowly. If the dog shows signs of combativeness, recruit help from another person and muzzle him before caring for the injury. If you don’t have a muzzle handy, tie a leash to his collar and secure it to a solid object, such as a tree. Tie the leash closely enough to the tree to limit his head’s mobility.
Rule #2: Clean and Immobilize the Leg
If there are any open wounds on the leg, clean them with antibacterial soap and, if possible, hydrogen peroxide. Then immobilize the injured leg using splints. If you need to, make splints from whatever is handy; two pieces of stiff cardboard and elastic or resistant string work well. However, do not attempt to straighten, adjust or push the bones back into place — even if they are protruding from the wound. You may cause additional injury to arteries, bones or tissues.
Rule #3: Visit a Vet Immediately
Broken bones with dogs — as with humans — require immediate medical attention. Further injury or infection can result without adequate care. After immobilizing the leg, transport the dog to a nearby veterinary facility that can see him immediately. Call on the way if you can, so the staff is aware of the situation. Keep the dog as still and quiet as possible during transport; if you have a portable cage, use it. He may be distressed to be locked in a cage and away from you during this time, but immobilization is best for his injury. At the office, the vet will evaluate the injury, X-ray it and apply a plaster cast if necessary.
Rule #4: Keep Your Dog As Quiet as Possible
Broken bones can take anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks to heal in a dog. It is vital he remain as quiet and calm as possible during this time. Your vet will likely prescribe pain medications and, if necessary, sedatives to accomplish this. Do not allow your pet to jump up and down or to climb or play in any weight-bearing activities. If you can, carry the dog outdoors to toilet. If absolutely necessary, confine your pet to a cage a few hours at a time to keep him quiet.