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Fracture of the Pelvis in Dogs

By: Dr. David Diamond

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Fractures of the pelvis are the most common fractures seen in veterinary medicine. These fractures are usually the result of major trauma.

Generally, pelvic fractures cause acute, non-weight bearing lameness of the hind legs. These fractures are usually found in mature bones; young animals with trauma to the pelvis commonly will have other structures break before the pelvis. Because of the shape of the pelvis, these fractures normally occur in several locations at once including both the left and right sides at the same time.

Depending on the nature of the fracture, different methods of management may be indicated in each situation. Pelvic fractures can have serious complications if not repaired or if the repair fails.

Diagnosis

A thorough physical examination can help determine which tests to perform. Although no laboratory tests are required to make the diagnosis, your veterinarian may recommend the following:

  • Chest radiographs to rule out injury to the lungs caused by the trauma
  • Complete orthopedic examination for other fractures or joint injuries
  • Neurologic examination of the hind legs to rule-out nerve damage
  • Radiographs of the pelvis

    Treatment

    Emergency care for concurrent problems caused by the trauma is paramount. Once stabilized, additional treatments can begin.

  • Treatment of concurrent soft-tissue injuries

  • Anesthesia and surgical stabilization of the bone fragments to give the animal the most rapid and least painful return to function. Some fractures do not require surgery.

  • The pelvis cannot be adequately immobilized in a cast or splint to allow proper healing.

  • Injectable analgesics (pain medications) are given to the animal while being treated in the hospital and may be continued orally once discharged from the hospital.

    Home Care and Prevention

    Take your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible after any trauma for immediate attention. If your animal does not need surgical stabilization or if surgery is decided against, strict exercise restriction may be the only required course of action.

    If surgical repair of the fracture is performed, the animal will be kept restricted from activity for several weeks and the skin incision will be monitored while healing.

    Recheck appointment with the veterinarian will occur in several weeks to evaluate how the bone is healing (with new radiographs), to monitor the animal's progress, and to make sure it is safe to increase the dog's activity level.

    Many traumatic events are true accidents and thus unavoidable. Avoid the chance for motor vehicle trauma by keeping your dog confined to a fenced in area or by leash walking only.

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