When Your Small Dog Breaks a Limb

One of the saddest and most horrifying things so far for our little fur-family. We we finally decided to get a puppy, picked just the right breeder, bought all of the way-to-big toys (cause we had no idea just how SMALL our little 2lb Yorkie would be!), we had her home for only 1 week when the worst thing happened…

We were teaching her to play fetch, without realizing that puppies don’t come with a natural instinct (at least our little one didn’t) to Stop and Slide… not Crash and Burn. Well, she ran and crash into the foot of our steps leading upstairs. Poor thing!!

She looked a little shocked at first, shied away from the stairs, and then we quickly picked her up and cuddled her until bed time.

The next morning when I went downstairs to get her, I discovered that she would not stand on her back leg at all. It was limp. And when I first tried to feel it to see if it was broken, no reaction… until there was.

She screeched in pain! My heart instantly fell into a million pieces. I remember holding her in my arms at 7am on a Sunday morning, crying and crying while I sat at the top of the landing as my not-quite-awake husband tried to figure out what the heck was wrong.

So, I gathered myself, got into the truck and drove immediately to the emergency pet hospital. The vet there, through my tears deciphered that our poor babes was found like this in the morning, and that the only thing we could think of was from fetch the night before.

The vet took a quick feel, and told us it was a Floating Knee, or Luxating Patella, a common condition that can be found among small dogs. Nothing to worry about, she would be fine. She gave us some pain medication and sent us on our way.

That day, we did everything we could to keep our baby comfortable, but it was heart wrenching because she was still so knew to us, and we had no idea what her ‘normal’ comfort things might be. So we all cried a lot (me mostly), and did our best to get her to sleep.

The next morning, still no improvement, even with the pain killers. I am not a huge proponent of giving anyone, including an animal, painkillers unless they have the desired effect. And she was still screaming every time I picked her up. So we went right back to our regular vet (regular as in, we had just met him 5 days earlier when we brought her home).

He was amazing. First thing he did was tell me that he had examined her for Luxating Patella the week before and had found no sign of that, and so he didn’t feel that was it. So he took X-rays right there.

Find a vet who can do on-the-spot X-ray service so that you can get a better picture of what you are dealing with without having to go to an emergency or imaging clinic.

After looking at the X-rays, our vet quickly identified that the issue was that our little 2lb Yorkie had broken her two middle toes on her back right leg. OMG I was devastated! I thought, what a horrible pup mom I was to have allowed something like this to happen!!!

You can see here for the two toes in the middle are broken. Thankfully, her bones were still growing and fusing together so the doctor had high hopes!

You can see here for the two toes in the middle are broken. Thankfully, her bones were still growing and fusing together so the doctor had high hopes!

 

(Also, I can’t begin to tell you how upset I was that the emergency vet clinic did not even bother to check for broken limbs!)

After quick reassurance from our very understanding vet, he wrapped Duchess up with a splint and sent her home. He explained that they like to not cast puppies because, at that age, their bones have not yet fused together, and a cast, even for a short time, would stunt her growth. In fact, he warned us that we may find a difference in the growth with just a splint, but that it would be to a much lesser degree.

Fused-Bones

This xray shows how the bones of our 9 week old yorkie had not yet fused together. We had no idea just how delicate her little body was, so we were careful not to rough house her to bump her too hard.

 

So off we went… Home with a much more comfortable puppy. It took her just a few minutes and she was trying to run and play again. It was amazing how quickly she turned around!

A few key things to expect when your puppy has a broken limb.

The first thing our vet insisted upon was that we not allow her to run. To drive that point home – I had a 9 week old 2lb Yorkie pup. Running was the only speed she had when she wasn’t sleeping! This would be very important, however, so that we did not run into issues with the bones not fusing together properly or causing long term damage.

We had to get creative with play time! We kept play on a blanket, and she quickly learned not to venture away.

We had to get creative with play time! We kept play on a blanket, and she quickly learned not to venture away.

 

This meant a lot more hands-on for us as pawrents – when she was not in her pen for quiet time, we needed to provide constant attention in our play so that she stayed beside us and was not running or trying to be too rambunctious…

(Wait – as I type this, I am realizing how we ended up with a Diva pup. Ok, if you are going through this situation, you’ll want to follow this article up with our training experience which happened a few months after her toes were healed.)

Anyway, back to this story…

Here were some of the other trials we experienced as a result of this:

1. Potty Breaks. These were not a joy. One of the first rules for bring home a new puppy is to start training them right away: where you want them to go, what the routine is, etc. Well, for our little Yorkie, our only focus was trying to watch for body signals (like, every 10 minutes!), rushing to wrap her splint in a baggy, get her to the potty area and hope she has to go. If not, remove the baggy, back to her pen – until we see the signal again. (Ok, another light bulb moment for me here… follow up article to see what this nightmare resulted in – when potty training doesn’t go as planned.)

2. Keeping the splint dry. This is an extremely important one. If the splint gets wet, it what’s the potential to get wet all the way into the skin. It will then likely not dry, and the moisture, unable to dry, can cause an infection on the skin itself, which will be just one more thing you – and your baby – have to deal with.

This means that we had to cover the splint for potty breaks – cause, you know, she was 2lbs and had short little legs!

It also meant that we could not really wash her very well because the splint went all the way up to the top of her back leg/hip. Sigh.

It also meant that we couldn’t introduce her to a groomer until everything was healed – and puppy hair GROWS!!!! Lol. She was quite shaggy by the end of it.

And it also meant that we were limited on walk training, as dirt and moisture getting on the splint would not be good as you run the risk of moisture getting in there.

3. No kennel or puppy visits as these run the risk of the puppy getting to over excited. The kennel was not too much of a big deal at this time as she was too young and did not yet have all of her shots so wouldn’t be going anyway, but puppy visits were sad to avoid. This was important, however – because she was not in a cast, rough movement could cause the splint to shift, causing pain and discomfort.

4. Constant supervision. This was so that she did not lick or chew at the sock/splint. She was a puppy – that urge was there in full force the first couple of weeks. The vet did provide us with a cone, however at that size, even the smallest cone was way too big and awkward for her. We would use the cone at night, or if we had to leave the house, but other than that, we had her set up with a baby video monitor so that if she was awake during the day, we would rush to be with her so that we could distract her. (The makings of my Diva there, sadly.)

Frequent vet visits.

… A great reason to ensure you have pet insurance as soon as you bring your puppy home.

We were at the vets office every week. We had the splint sock changed at least once a week. There were follow up X-rays to watch the healing process, additional pain medication, and any number of other expenses to keep an eye on her healing.

Since our puppy came with a 6 week puppy trial from our breeder’s insurance, we were – thankfully – covered. I don’t think anyone expects to have to use insurance so quickly after getting a puppy, but we were so glad that we had it. Overall, we spent around $400, but the insurance company paid around an additional $1600. A big expense one week in from bringing home our little bundle of joy.

After they heal.

Imagine… You have a teeny tiny puppy – just bigger than your hand – who has been removed from her litter mates into a new home with strange people and a strange (albeit squishy) bed, who has broken her toes, spent nights howling in pain, unable to settle, unable to play, unable to be a dog…

And what have you done – you have nurtured, babied, cared for and doted on for the duration of her healing time. Carried her around, lots of lap time, everything her little heart desires… For a whole month!

All snuggy with momma and Mr. Weasel. <3

All snuggy with momma and Mr. Weasel. <3

 

But what has also happened is that you now have a dog who has forgotten that it’s a dog, in a pack… In a hierarchy. She is a peoples in her mind… Entitled, and expecting you to always be there, dote on her hand a paw, constantly play with her, unable to entertain herself…

All of the ingredients necessary for raising a Diva Dog. You didn’t do it on purpose. You didn’t start off wanting to go that route. But here you are. What now?

Well, we struggled with this… For months… And truthfully – as I type this – we are still working through learning to maintain pack leadership… But I strongly recommend that you take this time to invest in a training course for you and your dog, for transitioning from a family of peoples, and baby-pawrents, to true pack.

We thought we could get by without it, but because of the whole experience outlined above – and really after any traumatic situation that causes you to have to throw off their desired routine – we realized that we needed help. That little something extra from a professional.

You may not need one, depending on your level of experience with raising puppies, or puppies with special circumstances. But we had neither of those things, and so had to realize when help was needed.

If you find yourself looking forward to a trainer, check out my article on our experience selecting a trainer.

Good luck! And lots of love to your fur baby while they recover!

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