How do you know if they have broken a bone or fracture?

The honest answer is, 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 simply 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 – limbs may be shortened or the broken area could have lumps and bumps or stepping (if the spine is injured it will be uneven if you feel down their back gently).
• 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.

Breaks, Fractures and Dislocations


Important Things to Note on Fractures

Broken bones on their own very rarely cause fatalities. However, if there is severe bleeding associated with the injury (either internal or external bleeding) this can cause the animal 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

Breaks, Fractures and Dislocations

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.

Complicated fractures

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 Fractures

Protect yourself and the animal from any further danger. If you suspect that your pet has broken a limb, do not reposition it 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 transported to the vet for an x-ray.
Do not try and splint the limb, just transport your pet as quickly and comfortably as possible.



Breaks, Fractures and Dislocations

A dislocation occurs when the bone is pulled out of position at a joint and it can be accompanied by other tissue damage. Always go to a vet to re-place a dislocated joint. Never try and put it back yourself as you are likely to cause further damage and trap nerves or blood vessels.

Signs and Symptoms

• Difficulty moving the joint, pain and stiffness
• Swelling and bruising around the joint
• They are likely to be asymmetrical, with one joint looking deformed and out of place
• There could be shortening, bending or twisting of the joint


• Keep everyone safe – muzzle your dog if there is a risk of being bitten
• Support the injury to avoid unnecessary and painful movement
• Never try and reposition the limb yourself
• Look out for signs of shock
• Phone the vet and transport them carefully to your local veterinary clinic
• Do not give them anything to eat or drink as they may need a general anaesthetic

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