Leg Fractures in Italian Greyhounds
This article is split into three sections about leg fractures in Italian Greyhounds:
– How to help prevent them
– What to do if it happens
– Aftercare to return your IG back to full mobility.
How to help prevent leg fractures
Italian Greyhound puppies in particular are incredibly lively and care needs to be taken to ensure they don’t damage their limbs. Having long slim legs, compared to their body mass and their desire to run and jump can make them more vulnerable to leg fractures. Adults too can have accidents, which result in leg fractures.
Bones provide structure and allow for movement. They are mineral banks, therefore a good quality balanced diet, rich in proteins, minerals, vitamins and lipids is essential, along with daily exercise to keep their bones and muscles strong. Excess weight is not good for an IG, as it has to be carried on relatively slim bones, and increases the risk of having bone and other health problems.
Accidents can happen, causing leg fractures in any breed and the best form of prevention is:
- Never let anyone, apart from yourself pick up a young IG puppy, they must sit on the floor and play with the puppy on the floor. IG puppies think they can fly and will think nothing of launching themselves from the arms of an inexperienced breed person. The results are dire and leg fracture(s) a certainty.
- Introduce your young puppy to as many different scenarios as possible, when on a collar (houndshaped, broader at the front) and lead, such as stairs and steps, so as it learns how to deal with different situations in a controlled way.
- Do not encourage or let your puppy jump onto furniture, once adult it will have learnt how to do so safely.
- Do not encourage your puppy to jump up into your arms.
- Ensure your puppy has good exercise both on a lead and, free in your garden which is hazard free, such as decking where it might jump off and not realise how severe the drop is on the other side. Be aware that allowing a young puppy to run with a larger dog is tempting fate and a fracture may result as they bump into one another.
- Keeping your puppy caged or penned is not a good idea, unless for safety reasons the puppy is being left on its own. It needs both mental and physical stimulation and is likely to run wild once free from the confines of a pen if regularly confined.
If the worst happens and you suspect a leg fracture
Generally if an IG fractures its leg(s) it is usually the fore limb(s) or front leg. You will hear a blood-curdling scream as the dog feels intense pain.
Commonly the lower part of the leg will be dangling as both the bones (ulna & radius) fracture, just above the wrist joint, the 1st joint up the leg from the paw. Fractures are classified as open or closed. Open fractures (also known as compound fractures) are where the wound exposes the bone, often contaminated by dirt and bacteria, and are accompanied by a high risk of infection. Closed fractures are broken bones that have not penetrated the skin.
Your priority is to remain as calm as possible, pick up the dog reassuring it with your voice, being aware it will probably try to bite due to the intense pain
Gently support the fractured limb by holding your hand under the fracture site, by stabilising the bones as best you can to avoid any further damage and lessen the pain.
- If the skin is broken and bleeding gently cover the site with a clean paper towel or tea towel to stem the blood flow.
- If you are on your own a rolled towel should be used to support the injured leg, whilst you transport the dog to a Veterinary Surgeon in a dog carrier, well padded with blankets to prevent movement and further pain to the dog.
- If someone is able to drive you to the Vets, wrap a blanket around the dog and hold it close to your body whilst supporting the injured leg. It will be in shock and lose body heat quickly.
- A few drops of Rescue Remedy or Emergency essence will help to calm the dog if you have any.
It is vital that a Veterinary surgeon is consulted for a fracture or if you suspect a fracture, if not immediately obvious.
What can be done to treat a fracture?
Initially, X-rays or a CT scan are performed to assess the broken bone and plan the treatment.
Many Vets will refer you to an Orthopaedic Surgeon at a Specialist Referral Hospital. They will however, give your IG sedation, painkilling treatment and apply a support bandage to prevent further damage and make your dog as comfortable as possible until the surgery is carried out.
Depending on the type of fracture, different forms of treatment might be recommended. Most are best treated with an operation. This allows the broken bones to be re-aligned and stabilised.
Options for stabilising the bones include bone plates and screws, the most common form of treatment for IGs, or pins that are placed inside the bone or the less usual external frames that are connected to the bone using pins going through the skin. Casts are rarely used these days as the resulting repair is not as good as using plates. Some fractures are relatively straightforward to manage, others are very complex, necessitating considerable orthopaedic instrumentation, implants and expertise. Insurance for young IGs in particular is a must as surgery is expensive and can run into thousands of pounds.
What aftercare is needed following fracture surgery?
Following surgery, most IGs are relatively comfortable, they must be confined to a pen or crate and must only be taken out for toileting when on a lead, walking slowly and never be allowed to jump, or attempt stairs whilst convalescing. It is a good idea to stay home with your dog initially, or ensure someone is with them as they may become agitated when in pain, causing them to move around and nibble their dressing. Antibiotic and pain medication will have to be administered, to prevent infection and help the healing process. A common liquid painkiller/anti inflammatory – Loxicom or Metacam may be prescribed; IGs can have a bad stomach reaction to this drug, in which case liquid paracetamol prescribed by your vet is usually a good alternative. It is vital that you follow the post surgery instructions given by your Vet and that all follow up appointments are adhered to. Some Vets apply bandages following surgery and these must kept clean and free from moisture to minimize the risk of infection. It is normal to X-ray the fracture site 4 – 6 weeks after surgery to ensure that all is well.Find low impact ways to keep your IG mentally stimulated, such as rubber toys stuffed with treats or provide chews to relieve the boredom.
There are a number of factors, which determine how fast the bone calcifies, including whether the IG is a puppy or an older adult, lack of exercise prior to injury, poor nutrition, severity of the fracture, infection and excessive movement cause a delay in healing.
Generally it will be at least 12 weeks before you can begin to think of letting your IG off the lead and even then great care needs to taken.
Most Vets will leave a plate in place, occasionally if the body rejects the plate or screws become loose it will have to removed. If this happens great care needs to be taken for a number of weeks as the bone will be weak where the screw holes have been until it recalcifies.
Despite best efforts, any fracture surgery can carry a risk of problems and complications. These can include infection, poor bone healing and implant breakage.
What is the outlook following fracture surgery?
With correct planning and in the hands of experienced surgeons, the outlook for healing of most fractures is very good. The majority of IGs regain excellent use of their broken limb and can enjoy a normal quality of life.
Amputation is therefore only to be used as a last resort, when other methods have failed, which are an uncommon occurrence.
The Italian Greyhound Rescue Charity, which is not a veterinary organisation, has compiled this article, it is written from many years experience of dealing with IGs who have had fracture treatment.
It is intended to help owners who experience the trauma of a fracture with their IG; specific veterinary advice must always be adhered to.