Broken Metatarsals in Dogs 101
September 24, 2012 7:06 AM Subscribe
Fractured metatarsals in dogs. My dog has broken three metatarsals in one hind paw - the fractures are straight across in the same line. We've been advised to see an orthopedic vet to discuss surgery vs. splinting. What should we know going into this meeting? Can you suggest good questions to ask? Can this kind of injury be caused by stress, i.e. jumping on a hard surface?
posted by anonymous to Pets & Animals (3 answers total)
Our dog was at a kennel (thankfully attached to a veterinary clinic) for a few days. One day into his stay, they were concerned about a limp, did a manual exam, and discovered that his paw was extremely painful. X-rays show that he has three broken metatarsals in one hind paw. The fractures are all in one straight line across his foot.
The kennel claims to have no idea how this happened. Nobody saw anything out of the ordinary happen while the dogs were playing, and nobody noticed him getting a paw stuck or stepped on. According to the vet, one of the employees went to take him from his cage out to the yard for supervised play group, she noticed him limping, watched for a few minutes, and called the vet to take a look. The vet's theory is that it is basically a "stress fracture" caused by repeated jumping up in the indoor cage, on the hard floor. Our dog does jump quite a bit (not on people, just in excitement) and I'm wondering if this is indeed possible.
This kennel is known to be excellent, and we've had a very good relationship with them. He frequently goes to "doggie day care" there, and has boarded numerous times. Each dog has an indoor/outdoor space, it has a very stable set of employees, and it's attached to a well-known and well-regarded veterinary clinic. Our dog is a bit of a jerk, but they've handled him well, and he has come to really like most of them. He's been going there for years, and they know which dogs he gets along with, and can tell when just needs to be alone with no other dogs. I'm highly involved with dog training and dog rescue, and am very apprehensive about most dog boarding places for being too frou-frou (and humanizing) or too wild (and domineering). This is one of the first places that has not raised my spidey sense, at all.
In other words, when they say they have no idea how it happened, I really have no reason *not* to trust them. But there was something about the vet's non-stop and frantic chattering about the situation, and his later offer of a slimy apology without actually apologizing ("While we cannot identify anything that occurred because of negligence or other harm, we're of course sorry that it happened here, etc.") that made me question the story a bit. While I was in the vet waiting room, a kennel worker brought over our dog bed and leash. She kind of mumbled "he's being so brave" and took off - even though we've interacted with her lots before.
I don't want to obsess about how it happened. I know that "these things happen" especially with dogs. We might never know what caused it. But I'd love a sense of whether or not this story is even plausible.
The vet said the fractured ends of the bones are overlapping a bit, and that with more than one fracture, he recommends seeing an orthopedic vet. We have an appointment for Monday. He's currently in a splint / cast to immobilize his paw. At our appointment tomorrow, we will be discussing surgery vs. immobilization. There seems to be a recommendation that more than 1-2 metatarsal fractures requires surgery. Others say that immobilization is best unless the paw is seriously disfigured or crushed. The surgeries have mixed outcomes, and can have some real trouble healing because of reduced blood flow in dog paws. Exterior immobilization (splint and cast) can have mixed results too.
1. Can stress from jumping cause *three* simultaneous metatarsal fractures? Most studies and anecdotes seem to show fractures caused by trauma - an object being dropped on the paw, or stuck in a door, or run over, or some other specific traumatic accident. I couldn't find any mention of a stress fracture causing three simultaneous breaks. What's the likelihood this was caused by jumping?
2. What kinds of questions should we be asking the orthopedic vet? If you've had a dog who had surgery, what do you wish you'd known ahead of time?
3. Any tips on keeping an active dog semi-immobilized for months?
4. Any tips on pain management for dogs? Other supplements?
Thanks for any suggestions in terms of our initial meeting with the vet, or in terms of long-term care for our little furry friend.
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