Types of Bone Fractures in Animals

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The Different Types of Bone Fractures in Animals

It’s not uncommon for a pet to break a bone or contract certain types of bone fractures. When a pet is injured, they usually receive veterinary care and are prescribed medications to help with the pain. Though bones may heal on their own, it can be difficult to tell how much damage has been done without an x-ray or other medical imaging techniques.

Fractures that do not heal properly can lead to long-term complications such as arthritis. In this blog post, we will go over what types of fractures there are in animals and which type might require veterinary attention.

What is a Bone Fracture?

A fracture is when your bones crack or split into two pieces due to injury. There are many different types of fractures in pets: cortical (or greenstick), linear (or hairline), spiral, comminuted.

A bone fracture is the injury of a bone due to trauma. There are many types of fractures, depending on the cause and type of force involved. When diagnosed early, some types can be treated non-surgically with casts and braces and other types may require surgery or even amputation.

grey cat with blue cast on tail

If you think your pet might have a broken bone, see your veterinarian right away.

Types of Bone Fractures in Animals Explained

Herewith is a visual representation of some of the types of bone fractures in existence.

types of bone fractures in animals
Types of Bone Fractures in Animals I Love Veterinary - Blog for Veterinarians, Vet Techs, Students

There are many types of fractures, depending on the cause and type of force involved. Countershock principle says that when two objects collide with each other, the less rigid object “compresses” upon impact (i.e., gets squished), while the more rigid object doesn’t move. The types of fractures include:

  • Open (compound) fracture (the broken bone(s) pokes through the skin, exposing raw tissue to infection).
  • Closed (simple) fracture (broken bone does not break the skin).
  • Spiral fracture where twisting force causes the bone to break lengthwise.
  • Comminuted fracture where the force applied to bone is enough to shatter it into fragments.
  • Greenstick (compound) fracture (the outer layer of bone bends, like green wood).
  • Impacted fracture (two bones are pushed together so hard that they stick together, weblike).
  • Transverse fracture (across the bone).
  • Oblique fracture (at an angle).

Treating Different Types of Bone Fractures

Most types of bone fractures can be fixed by visiting a veterinarian and having good results from being treated. Treatment usually entails using either casts, metal plates, screws, or rods to fix, align and stabilize the broken bone.

There are many types of fractures, ranging in severity and including complete breaks (which can be very serious) to hairline fractures (which usually result in no treatment).

There are other types of fractures that do not need immediate veterinary attention but rather follow-up x-rays after two weeks or so. These types include stress, hairline, and non-displaced types of fractures.

With any fracture, there is the risk of nerve damage which can result in loss of sensation and drainage, injury to vessels that may cause excessive pain or bleeding, or tears to tendons which will require additional surgery for correction.

Even if an owner can see that their pet’s leg looks fine at the time of the accident it may later show signs of nerve damage after the animal has been returned to its owner. Therefore, any fracture should be treated as a potential emergency and if possible, owners should seek immediate veterinary care for their pet.

In some types of fractures where bones don’t line up properly or are too far apart from one another veterinarians can use temporary pins to hold the bone together until it heals on its own.

This usually occurs within a few weeks but in some cases will require surgery to realign the broken bones if they do not heal properly. In this case, different types of pins and external fixators may be used for aiding proper alignment or fixing two pieces of bone that do not align correctly with each other.

The types of surgical procedures include intramedullary pinning, external fixation, and corrective osteotomy.

Intramedullary Pinning

In intramedullary pinning or internal fixation, a metal rod is inserted into the center of a bone through a small incision at the site where the fracture occurred. The types of surgeries involving pins require pins to be placed in bones along with plates and screws to secure them in place.

These types of procedures are great for helping fractures heal faster but they do have their limits due to lack of space to work within small animals’ legs because there is no room for plates and screws that would allow larger types of fractures to be fixed.

External Fixators are tools that use rods outside of the body that doctors can attach either from one side, both sides, or from multiple locations around the bone. They are types of equipment that don’t do as good a job as an internal fixation at fixing types of fractures but will allow for animals to move their legs and feet which is not possible with types of internal fixation such as intramedullary pinning.

Plating Procedures

The types of plating procedures include circumferential, segmental and comminuted fracture types. Plates and screws can also be used in conjunction with pins or wires depending on the type of fracture and the types of equipment available at a hospital.

Even in severe types of fractures where bones are in multiple pieces, screws can be inserted into the longest parts and then adjusted so that they line up in place with the shortest fragments and support the bone in proper alignment until it heals on its own.

Comminuted fracture types involve bones breaking into four or more separate pieces and require surgery to correct them before they can begin to heal properly. For this type of procedure, surgeons will either fix the biggest piece in place by inserting pins or rods through it such as when plates cannot be used or when there is no room for performing types of internal fixation.

Veterinarians may also attempt to create a dynamic compression type of intramedullary fixation that helps to fix the largest pieces in place without doing types of surgery that requires making large incisions.

Corrective Osteotomy

Types of corrective osteotomy surgeries include tibial osteotomy to correct certain types of varus deformities, angular limb deformities, or other types of deformities. These types of fracture types can result from traumatic injuries such as those caused by car accidents.

However, they can also be the result of disorders other than bone fractures that cause bones to grow abnormally which is why corrective osteotomy should only be performed when it’s medically necessary and not simply for convenience purposes.

The types of procedures involve cutting through bones, realigning them, and securing them together until proper healing occurs.

Depending on the type of fracture there may also be additional equipment used during surgical procedures including wire pins, types of external fixators called frames which are held in place with screws until the fracture types heal, or types of limb braces that help hold bones in place while they heal.


Bones can break during activities animals engage in on a daily basis but serious types of fractures will require medical treatment to ensure proper healing occurs. Types of fractures can be treated surgically using types of internal fixation, types of plates and screws, or types of surgical procedures like corrective osteotomy types that realign broken bone pieces together properly for optimal healing.

The type of treatment used will depend on the severity and location of the fracture as well as additional factors such as your pet’s age, health conditions, and activity levels.

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