How do you know if they have broken a bone?
The honest answer is, that unless the bone is sticking out, or the limb is at a very peculiar angle, the only way to know for sure that a bone is broken is to have an X-ray. A fracture is another word for a broken bone.
Other possible signs:
Pain – it hurts.
Loss of power; it can be hard to move a broken limb.
Unnatural movement – the limb may be at an odd angle and have a wider range of movement than it should have.
Swelling, bruising or a wound around the fracture site.
Deformity – often limbs may be shortened, or the broken area could have lumps and bumps or stepping (with an injured spine it is uneven as you gently feel down their back).
Irregularity – lumps, bumps, depressions, or stretched skin.
Crepitus – the grinding sound when the end of bones rub against each other.
Tenderness – pain at the site of injury.
Important things to note with broken bones
Broken bones on their own, rarely cause fatalities. However, if there is severe bleeding associated with the injury (either internal or external bleeding) this can cause the casualty to go into shock, which is life threatening.
Do not attempt to reposition the injured limb.
Keep your pet warm and dry and be aware that pain and stress will adversely affect their condition.
If you are at all worried about them, phone your vet.
Types of Fractures
Open fractures Phone for veterinary advice.
If the bone is sticking out, the bone is broken!
Be very aware of the onset of shock – keep them warm and dry, do not move or reposition the injured limb.
With complicated fractures, muscles, nerves, tendons and blood vessels could be trapped and damaged.
Keep them calm, warm and as still as possible and phone your nearest vet.
Do not attempt to splint or bandage the injured limb as you could make things worse.
Closed and greenstick fractures – The only sure way to tell if the bone is broken is to get it X-rayed.
Treating broken bones
Protect yourself and the animal from any further danger.
If you suspect that your pet has broken a limb, do not try and reposition the limb and only apply a bandage if there is profuse bleeding that you need to control. Move the limb as little as possible. Make the animal as comfortable as possible and safely transport to the vet for an X-ray.
Do not try and splint the limb, just comfortably transport your pet as quickly as possible.
If you want more information on this topic, head a read at this article on Breaks, Fractures and Dislocations.
First Aid for Pets provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for veterinary advice. The author does not accept any liability or responsibility for any inaccuracies or for any mistreatment or misdiagnosis of any person or animal, however caused. We strongly recommend that you attend a practical First Aid for Pets course or take our online course to understand what to do in a medical emergency.