Fracture of the Rib in Dogs

Overview of Rib Fractures in Dogs

Isolated fractures of the ribs are rare. More commonly, these fractures are found in conjunction with other fractures (legs, pelvis, spine) and are a result of trauma (motor vehicle accident) in dogs. There are usually no potential long-term effects from these fractures.

Trauma to the chest wall can be associated with severe respiratory (breathing) difficulty. In addition to rib fractures, dogs can have “pulmonary contusion” (lung trauma), “pneumothorax” (free air within the chest cavity causing a collapsed lung), and “flail chest” (abnormal movement of the chest wall when multiple rib fractures are present).

Diagnosis of Rib Fractures in Dogs

No laboratory tests are required to make the diagnosis, but other diagnostic tests may include:

Treatment of Rib Fractures in Dogs

Emergency care for concurrent problems caused by the trauma is paramount. After stabilization, additional treatment in your dog may include:

Home Care and Prevention

So your dog can heal with the least amount of pain possible, exercise restriction usually will be required for several weeks. Excessive motion of the chest wall with activity and heavy breathing causes discomfort and may cause the fracture to take longer to heal.

If a “flail chest” is being managed with a splint, the splint will be maintained for several weeks while the bones heal.

Radiographs (X-rays) may be repeated in several weeks to make sure the bones are healing well and to make sure it is safe to increase your pet’s activity level.

A recheck appointment with your veterinarian may occur in several weeks to evaluate how the bone is healing (with new radiographs), to monitor your pet’s progress and make sure it is safe to increase your pet’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 yard and leash walked.