Do You Have to Euthanize a Dog if it Breaks a Leg?

There are many difficult decisions a pet owner has to make in the course of a pet’s lifetime. Some of these decisions include how to discipline your dog, what to feed them, and how to care for your dog. The main difficult decision a dog owner may be posed with is what kind of medical treatments to give your dog, especially when they can be life-threatening and expensive to treat like a broken leg.

When a dog breaks one of its legs, it does not have to be euthanized. A broken leg is extremely treatable, and the dog will recover within 6-12 weeks. If the break is bad enough, the broken leg may have to be amputated. Only consider euthanasia if the leg will have a severely painful impact the dog’s life.

With this understanding of how to help a dog that has broken a leg, more information about what can happen to a dog with a broken leg and how to treat it is included below.

How to Tell if Your Dog Has a Broken Leg

When a human breaks their leg, it is extremely easy to tell, especially because of their reaction. People will scream, cry, or show other forms of discomfort when experiencing the immense pain of breaking a leg. Dogs are not nearly as vocal, although you will likely be able to tell if one of their leg bones is broken because they won’t stand on it and the bone will be visibly out of place. (Source)

There are a few different symptoms or reactions that your dog will likely do that can signal that they are in pain. Here is a list of some of those symptoms

  • Weird or unusual movements
  • Swelling
  • Inability/struggle to walk
  • Holding leg up
  • Grinding
  • Bruises
  • Whining
  • Aggression towards someone trying to touch/move the limb

Different types of fractures can be easier to see. If you can see the bone then your dog has broken a leg and should be taken in immediately. Often, any difference in activity or behavior should be noticed and a vet’s visit is recommended.

The next step once you have determined that a vet visit is necessary, you will want to call the vet and ask to come in urgently. If they are full of patients or if the office is closed, there are also emergency clinics you can visit. Once you have made arrangements, you will want to get your dog into the car comfortably.

Depending on the size of your dog, this can be a little tricky. For smaller dogs, you can carry them easily enough. For bigger dogs, you might need another person to help you carry them in a kennel that is nicely padded or on a blanket. Since your dog will be in significant pain, it is likely they will be anxious and could react in ways that are not normal to their typical behavior. You might want to consider muzzling them if they start being aggressive. (Source)

Just be extra careful and gentle with your pet!

An important thing to be aware of is that you should not give your dog any kind of pain medication without a veterinarian’s recommendation. Most pain medications for people are poisonous to dogs and wouldn’t be useful in this circumstance. Another thing to avoid is resetting or trying to realign your dog’s broken leg. This can cause excruciating pain and can lead to more damage. (Source)

Treatment Plan

Once you get to the veterinarian’s office, there are a few different steps your vet is likely to take. The doctor will likely try to start an IV and a catheter to manage fluids and help them easily administer medication, especially pain medication. After that, they will check and make sure that your dog has no other injuries that need to be taken care of immediately.

The vet will likely sedate your dog and do some x-rays in order to see the type and severity of the break without causing your dog unnecessary pain. Once they know more about the break, they can start treating it.

There are four types of breakage your dog might have experienced: open, closed, complete, and incomplete. An open fracture is a fracture that has an outer wound. This can be caused by the bone protruding out of the skin or simply be a wound that is present while the break remains under the skin. An incomplete bone fracture means your dog hasn’t broken the entire bone, which is good because those types of breaks often heal faster than others.

If your dog has a complete fracture in its broken leg, the bone has completely broken. However, it has not poked through the skin, which is good. This means it has a closed fracture, as the bone didn’t go through the skin and create an external injury.

Recovery Afterwards

After the vet treats your dog’s broken leg, they will tell you exactly how to care for your dog as it recovers. However, here are some things that you may encounter.

Your dog will have a cast and what is often called a cone of shame. They likely will be lethargic because of the medication and the fact that they won’t know how to walk in the cast. Let them rest as much as possible, and pet them to comfort them.

Make sure you give them their medication on time, as the vet will send you home with a prescription for pain pills for your dog. Wrap the pills in food if your dog hates taking pills. Make sure your dog’s cast stays clean and dry, although the bottom of the cast will likely get dirty as it will touch the ground as your dog walks.

Most of the time, vets will not euthanize dogs with a broken leg unless they have other, more severe injuries that won’t heal, even with time, and will cause your dog more pain. With these facts in mind, you are empowered to make the best decision regarding your dog’s healthcare. Soon, your pet will be back to bouncing around your home and backyard!

Carolina Pieters

I'm Carolina and created this blog, to provide practical advice and emotional comfort for those dealing with pet loss.

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