Surgical Bulletin: Broken Front Legs In Small Dogs

I’d like to address the topic of broken front legs in small dogs, particularly Pomeranians and Italian Greyhounds. So often, these injuries are not treated in a manner that will return the pet to normal health with full use of the fractured leg.

Treatment Options

As a surgeon I am consulted frequently for a second opinion on these type of fractures. There are generally 2 recommendations that are  offered – neither are satisfactory.

  1. The first is surprisingly common. Owners will be told that these type of fractures cannot be operated on, as the bones are too small and won’t heal, and amputation is the treatment of choice. Unfortunately many owners are persuaded that they have no other options, and their pet loses a leg.
  2. The second choice is similar but not quite as dramatic. The owner is told that surgery is not going to work, and the only choice is to put a splint on the leg. This is rarely successful.
Xray of a fractured dog leg

Splinting

One of the biggest impediments to bone healing is micro movement at the fracture site where the tiny bone healing cells are constantly disrupted by that subtle movement. A splint can not immobilize a front leg where both the ulna and radius is fractured.

If splints are applied, the muscles atrophy (wither away). Healing either does not occur and/ or the bones start to heal in a grotesque deviated manner requiring later surgery to straighten the limb.

Xray of a splint on a broken leg

Surgery

Believe me these fractures can be operated on. With expertise, experience, and the appropriate small surgical plates and screws available, the dog can regain full and normal use of the leg.

Xray of a fractured dog leg