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Fracture of the Femur in Dogs

By: Dr. David Diamond

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After surgery and discharge from the hospital, the dog must be restricted from activity to allow the fracture to heal properly. Activity must be restricted for several weeks after surgery; the duration will vary depending on the severity of the injury, the type of fixation that was used, and the age of the animal. Restricted activity means that the animal should be kept confined to a carrier, crate or small room whenever he cannot be supervised. He cannot play or rough-house, even if he appears to be feeling well; the use of stairs should be limited; and outdoor walks should be just long enough for him to relieve himself and then return indoors for more rest.

Animals whose fracture was repaired with an external fixation device will have pins exiting the skin. The "pin tracts" should be monitored daily for excessive swelling or discharge. Some discharge is normal and any crusty build-up that occurs at these sites can be gently cleaned with warm water.

Analgesics (pain medications), such as butorphanol (Torbugesic®), or anti-inflammatories, such as deracoxib, aspirin or carprofen (Rimadyl®), should be given as directed by the veterinarian.

The skin incision needs to be monitored daily for signs of excessive swelling or discharge. These can indicate problems with the incision or possible infection. Contact your veterinarian if these occur.

If at any point your dog stops using the leg again after some improvement following surgery, there could be a problem. Again, call your veterinarian.

Several weeks after surgery, the femur will need to be X-rayed again to make sure the bone is healing properly. If the healing has occurred as expected, the external fixator, if present, will be removed and the dog's activity level will be allowed to increase slowly back up to normal over the next few weeks.

In general, any other implants that were used in the repair will be left in place unless they cause a problem at some point in the future. Potential problems can include migration (movement) or infection of the implant.

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