Repairing broken bones in cats and dogs is a careful balance between many factors, including the fact that our pets tend not to rest in the way that their owners would following surgery.
They also don't use crutches. Many of us would have a few weeks resting on the settee, whilst our pets might well test out their repair with some athletic acrobatics within a couple of days of surgery
Method of Repair
The choice of technique will depend upon factors such the severity of fracture, which bone is affected, the age of the pet, its weight and any issues with other limbs. Our pets can share their weight between four limbs, but only if they all work ! As has often been quoted by orthopaedic lecturers "dogs and cats have 3 legs and a spare" ! If an older dog breaks a front leg but already has severe arthritis in their hips and they are a little overweight, they will struggle more than a young healthier dog with the same broken leg and three good fully functional legs.
For example, the x-ray above is the broken pelvis of a very active Jack Russell Terrier who wasn't terribly good at chasing cars. However, not only did he break his pelvis on both sides, he also broke his femur (thigh bone) so we had to address many factors to ensure he was mobile. He now also has a plate in his opposite shin bone !
So, we need to identify the best way to deal with the whole patient and not
just the broken bit !
The bone itself needs to be immobilised so that healing tissue can grow across the gap between the bones. A good blood supply is needed to bring nutrients and oxygen to cells so as to allow the tissue to repair. To reduce the gap between the sections of bone might damage this supply so there is always a element of compromise. It has been described as being the carpenter approach and the gardener approach, part assembly and part cultivation.
Sometimes we can simply use a dressing on a limb, or a 'plaster' cast but any owner who has had one of these themselves knows how difficult it can be to avoid them getting wet. They are incredibly difficult to get right and then avoid them rubbing so if their use can be avoided, we almost certainly avoid a lot of problems such as damage to skin as well as the problem of keeping them clean and dry.