February 16, 2016
Categories: Shelter Medicine

Most private veterinary practices rely on surgery when it comes to certain kinds of broken bones. But when surgery isn’t in the cards – or the budget – for your animal shelter, managing those fractures can often be done humanely and effectively without it.

That was the message from board-certified veterinary surgeon Dr. Matthew D. Johnson of the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine at the 2016 NAVC Conference in Orlando, FL.

Dr. Johnson told attendees that many types of fractures respond well to crate-rest and pain management, with excellent outcomes.

For example, he said, fractures of the shoulder blade that don’t involve the joint “are generally best treated with rest. The bone is thin, and it is difficult to place implants. There is good muscular support around the bone, which affords a very good blood supply to the fracture site; in addition, the muscles in the area tend to make the fracture, regardless of configuration, relatively stable. In most cases the fracture will heal and the patient can return to normal function in 8 to 12 weeks.”

Other fractures that are often suited to treatment with rest, confinement and pain management include:

  • Fractures of the skull and jaw
  • Rib fractures, including some multiple fractures
  • Some types of pelvic fracture
  • Some hip socket fractures
  • Certain fractures of the spine without intractable pain, especially in young animals

Of course, some types of fractures can’t be managed this way; Dr. Johnson called out fractures of or near the joints, such as an elbow fracture, as being unsuited for this approach. Additionally, some soft tissue or organ involvement, as well as other complications, takes non-surgical treatment off the table.

But for those conditions that are not only suitable for this approach but best-treated with it, treating with rest and pain management can be a lifesaver for shelter pets.