A rib fracture is a partial or complete break in a rib bone. Fractures are defined depending on their nature (comminuted, transverse, angled, spiral etc) as well as whether the fracture is open (parts of bone or fragments pierced through the overlying skin) or closed (overlying skin intact).
The injury develops with the dog, like also with humans, due to the required external forces suddenly after a strong trauma. In case the dog remains conscious it expresses strong pains. The complete breast area of the dog is particularly algesic. It is hard for the dog to breathe, often you may hear groaning. Depending on the severity, symptoms such as inability to move may appear. In some rare cases, grinding noises or deformations being visible with the eye may result. In case of a fracture, also adjacent tissue, tendons, ligaments, muscles, vessels, etc. may be damaged and harmed. Hematoma, bleeding, breakdowns, shock conditions or loss of consciousness may occur. Open fractures are always to be assessed as more serious since the protecting tissue is harmed and infections may develop. Simple fractured ribs partially heal spontaneously, worse are the prospects in case of multiple fractured ribs and in case of injuries of inner organs caused by the fractures, especially of lung and heart.
The bone fracture is caused by an external force impacting on the bones, in this case mainly as a result of a car accident or a fall. In case the energy of the impacting force is larger than the elasticity of the bones, these break. Since ribs are extremely flexible, they are particularly hard to break. Fractures occur more frequently with older animals since their bones are less elastic than those of young animals.
For diagnosis, X-ray photographs are consulted by means of which the type of fracture and the required therapeutic steps can be identified. Deformations of the chest or air accumulations under the skin may also be always a sign of a rib fracture. Bones grow again, the places of fracture close. Therefore, however, the affected extremity needs to be immobilized completely, well supplied with blood and be stable in itself. As with fractures of the extremities, the therapeutic measures depend on the severity of the injury. Simple, uncomplicated fractures mostly heal with rest in cages, chest bandages and medication (painkillers). It becomes more complicated when the chest is instable due to several fractures or rib fragments threaten to injure the viscera. Such rib fragments always need to be removed surgically. As with fractures of the extremities it must be balanced between the conservative treatment (restriction of movement, bandages and medication) and a surgical intervention. The surgical variant uses different wires and bands which shall stabilize the chest.
In case of a bone fracture, you should as soon as possible consult a veterinarian since already "harmless" fractures are associated with huge pain for the animal. Always pay attention to a balanced alimentation of your dog. It should be refrained from a mere meat feeding since the bones may possibly become porose. Since a rib fracture occurs particularly frequently as a result of a collision with a car, you should always leash your dog on the street. In case your dog shows symptoms of a bone fracture, you should proceed as indicated in the note of the following advice category.