Fracture of the Tibia and Fibula in Dogs

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Overview of Fractured Tibia and Fibula in Dogs

The tibia and fibula are the two bones that make up the lower rear leg. Fractures of these bones are commonly encountered in dogs. Because of the conformation of the lower rear leg, both bones, the tibia and fibula, usually fracture at the same time.

These fractures are usually the result of trauma, but can be caused by disease of the bone itself. They can occur in an immature bone (one that has not finished growing), or in a mature one, can be “open” or “closed” and can be “simple” or “comminuted.” They can also involve either the tarsus (ankle) or knee joints.

Depending on the nature of the fracture and the age of the animal, different methods of repair may be indicated for each situation. Tibia and fibula fractures can have serious complications if not repaired, or if the repair fails, and can result in developmental abnormalities of the leg if the animal is immature when the injury occurred.

What to Watch For

Symptoms of Fracture of the tibia and fibula in dogs may include: 

  • Lameness
  • Abnormally positioned leg
  • Pain or inability to move
  • Diagnosis of Fracture of the Tibia and Fibula in Dogs

    A thorough physical examination and medical history are important in any illness or injury. Based on the results of the physical examination, additional tests may be recommended.. No laboratory tests are required to make the diagnosis. 

  • Chest radiographs
  • Complete orthopedic examination
  • Radiographs of the affected leg
  • Treatment of Fracture of the Tibia and Fibula in Dogs

    Emergency care for concurrent problems caused by the trauma is the most important part of treatment. After stabilization, additional treatment for your dog may include:

  • Treatment of concurrent soft-tissue injuries
  • Some fractures of the forearm can be managed with a cast or splint
  • Some tibia and fibula fractures require anesthesia and surgical stabilization of the bone fragments for the best results
  • 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

    Bring the dog to the veterinarian as soon as possible after any trauma for immediate attention. Try to prevent your dog from walking or moving too much. Prompt veterinary treatment is recommended. Do not attempt to place a splint or bandage on the leg unless profuse bleeding is occurring.

    After surgical repair of the fracture, the dog must be kept restricted from activity for several weeks and the skin incision should be monitored while healing. A recheck with your veterinarian will occur in several weeks to evaluate how the bones are healing (with new radiographs), to monitor the animal’s progress, and to make sure it is safe to increase the animal’s activity level.

    Many traumatic events are true accidents and thus unavoidable. Avoid the chance for motor vehicle trauma by not allowing your dog to roam.                                                      

    In-depth Information on Fractured Tibias and Fibulas

    Tibia and fibula fractures are commonly seen in veterinary trauma patients, usually as a result of motor vehicle trauma. These injured dogs tend to be young, non-neutered males who roam away from home and get hit by a car. Animals of both sexes and of any age are susceptible to this type of trauma if not kept restrained.

    Dogs can develop non-traumatic fractures of the tibia or fibula when certain disease conditions exist. These fractures, also known as “pathologic fractures,” can occur if the animal is malnourished, has a systemic illness such as kidney disease, has an endocrine disorder such as hyperparathyroidism, has a bone infection (osteomyelitis), or has cancer of the bone.

    Immature bones have growth plates (physes) that are still “open” and growing. These regions of the young bone are generally weaker than the bone that has already been created. The energy of a trauma often results in fracture at these parts of the immature bone and can lead to premature “closure” of the physes resulting in abnormal growth at either end of the bone.

    Frequently encountered fractures of the immature tibia include:

  • Fracture of the tibial tuberosity (boney prominence on which the tendon of the quadriceps muscle attaches)
  • Physeal fractures at the end of the bone near the stifle (proximal physis)
  • Physeal fractures at the end of the bone near the hock (ankle joint or tarsus)
  • Fractures of the middle of the bone (diaphysis)

    Fractures of the mature tibia and fibula usually occur in the midportion of the bones. Joint fractures involving the stifle or hock can occur at either end of the bones.

    Fractures of the diaphysis of the tibia/fibula can be classified as “open” or “closed” depending on whether the skin surface has been damaged during the injury. Open fractures are common with these fractures because there is not much soft tissue coverage in this portion of the leg. Open fractures have a greater chance of getting infected and may have more complications than closed fractures.

    As with all fractures, fractures of the tibia/fibula can also be classified as “simple,” if each bone breaks into two pieces, or “comminuted,” if there are multiple pieces.

    Each case of tibia/fibula fracture needs to be evaluated in its entirety (age of animal, severity of the fracture, experience of the surgeon, and financial concerns of the owner) to determine the most appropriate and best form of treatment.

                                                                                            

    Inappropriate case management, inadequate surgical stabilization, or poor aftercare can lead to complications such as non-unions (fractures that will not heal), malunions (fractures that heal in an abnormal direction or orientation), osteomyelitis (bone infection), arthritis, or a non-functional leg.

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