Fractures- Repair options
Just like humans, animals have accidents and break bones. Depending on how bad the break is and what bone will determine which options are available to fix the fracture. First of all there are different kinds of fractures. There are complete or incomplete with different classifications within these groups.
Just like with humans, we can sometimes use casts to immobilise animals bones and provide support until they heal. This can be a good option but the casts need to be monitored and kept clean and dry. You need to go in for regular checkups and get the cast changed usually weekly if not more. This can be a good option, but isn’t always the fastest or best option.
Another option available is called an external fixator. It is basically a frame or scaffolding that provides support to the leg until the fracture is able to repair itself. Animals are usually able to start weight bearing the day after surgery if not the same day. This helps the muscles to stay strong and not atrophy from disuse that can be common with a cast or if the animal stops using the limb while the fracture heals. Again you need to communicate with your veterinarian about how often you need to come in for checkups and what to watch for. Since this method has pins that are directly into the bone and through the skin to the outside frame, it is very important that these areas stay clean and get cleaned often. Again ask your veterinarian for the proper things to do and watch for to avoid infection.
Another option is to do an internal fixation like a bone plate. This is a way that provides similar support to the external fixator, but has less maintenance. This will remain inside the animal for life unless it provides other complications later in the animals life. You don’t have to worry about when to take the pins out and you just need to keep the surgery incision clean and dry. If the plate is placed well the animal will usually go back to weight bearing that same day or the day after surgery takes place. It provides good support until the fracture is healed and usually does not cause any other problems. It is usually advised that patients take antibiotics to minimize infection risk from placing a plate just in case. This is a fantastic option we have in medicine at our disposal and from that point on your dog will have a bit of extra hardware for life. Make sure to keep them away from metal detectors.