How to Recognize and Treat a Rib Fracture in Dogs

Seeing your dog go through a traumatic event can be a terrifying experience. If your dog has been hit by a car or attacked by another dog, you'll want to check her over for injuries right away. As you look for injuries, don't forget to check your dog for broken ribs. Because of where the ribs are in relation to the lungs, a broken rib can be a particularly dangerous injury to leave untreated.

Dog in the animal hospital
How to Recognize and Treat a Rib Fracture in Dogs
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How dog broken ribs occur

According to Wag!, fractured ribs most often occur from traumatic events. These events can include a dog being hit by a car or being attacked by another dog. In some cases, abusive owners can break their dog's ribs by beating the dog.

A dog bone fracture, particularly in the ribs, is an emergency and requires prompt veterinary treatment. Not only are rib fractures highly painful, but sharp shards of rib can potentially puncture a lung.

PetMD notes that any sign that your dog is in pain after an accident could indicate the presence of broken ribs. Dog and puppy broken rib symptoms include whining and, depending on the break, you may be able to see the bone pushing against or through the skin. If you suspect that your dog may have a fractured rib, you should take him to the vet right away.

If your dog is in a traumatic accident such as being hit by a vehicle, it's a good idea to take him to the vet to be evaluated even if he doesn't seem to be in pain. Your dog could be in shock, could be experiencing internal bleeding, or could have another injury that isn't yet evident.

Transporting an injured dog

If you think that your dog's ribs may be broken, then you need to be very careful about how you transport your dog to the vet. PetMD suggests that you start by muzzling your dog if needed, but only do this if your dog is not having any trouble breathing.

Start by assessing your dog's overall condition. Look at her chest to identify any open wounds and cover them with clean gauze. Then, wrap her whole chest with clean, torn bedsheets. Make the wrap firm, but don't make it so tight that it interferes with your dog's breathing.

You may notice that your dog's chest is bulging out. If the bulge is firm, it may be the end of a broken rib. Wrap over the bulge but don't put pressure against your dog's chest when you lift her into the car.

It's possible for a broken rib to puncture a lung. If this has happened, you may hear a sucking sound coming from your dog's chest. This is an emergency and you should contact your vet right away. If the injury occurs after business hours, then go straight to your local emergency vet or emergency pet hospital.

Assessing broken ribs

According to Wag!, your vet will probably take X-rays to determine which ribs are broken. He may also want to perform an ultrasound to determine if the ribs have punctured a lung.

If your vet finds that the rib fracture is serious, he may need to surgically repair it. Most fractures can be repaired with pins and wires that are either connected internally or externally through the dog's skin. These materials help to stabilize the break so that it can heal properly. External pins are then removed once the healing is complete, but internal pins will be left in place.

Home care

When it's time to take your dog home, Wag! advises that you keep your dog quiet and encourage him to rest. Your dog may prefer to sit or lie in certain positions as his ribs heal. You will need to be careful around your dog since accidentally touching him near his ribs may cause him to yelp and react in pain. With time, your dog should heal from broken ribs just fine as long as you're able to get him appropriate veterinary care.