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2-Year Old Pomeranian Breaks Front Leg

November 21, 2010

tan pomeranian

Arnold, the Pomeranian

Jumping Off the Sofa Can Break a Leg

A 2-year-old fluffy, tan Pomeranian looked up at Doc Truli with big, sad brown eyes.  He guarded his right front leg by holding it tucked close to his heart.  A gentle, kind soul, he did not even think about biting the Doc.

“Doc, he broke his leg about 4 months ago.  We couldn’t afford to have surgery, so we had our other vet apply a splint cast.  Now the other vet says Arnie must have surgery…that the leg will not heal.  I don’t know who to believe!” said Arnold’s distraught dad.


x-ray of a pomeranian's front leg. the fracture shows smooth, white, bulbous edges of bone.  this is what a non-union looks look

radial nonunion

Doc Truli looked over the radiographs from the other veterinary hospital.  The radius and ulna – the two long bones of the forelimb of most mammals – is fractured straight across just across the wrist (carpus in dogs).  There’s a black gap and the white bony edges appear mushroomed out a little.  Officially, there is no set time when a surgeon can declare a break to be a non-union in veterinary medicine. Do not ask your vet, “After xxx number of weeks, will that be a non-union?”  There is no right or wrong answer!

Breeds Susceptible to Non-Union of the Forelimb Long Bones

Generally, a set and stable long bone in a puppy should heal in 4-6 weeks, sometimes sooner.  In an adult dog, 6-8 weeks.  There is a big caveat, which affected Arnold’s chances for recovery.

Tiny breed dogs, like

  • Chihuahuas
  • Yorkshire Terriers
  • Miniature Pinschers
  • Miniature Poodles
  • Maltese
  • Pomeranians
  • Italian Greyhounds
  • and any mixes with thin, skinny front legs

lack the proper blood supply for adequate healing to the forelimb.  Because of the low blood supply compared to dogs with thicker, bloodier foreleg muscles, the healing factors are insufficient.  Without strict stabilization of the bone, and metal to hold the bone through the long process of healing, a false joint or a non-union are likely in a small breed dog.

How a Long Bone Fracture Heals

Line Up the Bone

The closer, better lined up, and more still a fracture site stays, the quicker and more direct the healing process.  The osteoblasts, which are specialized bone cells (osteo-) that make new bone (-blast in medicine means a cell that starts or makes the finished result), can travel directly across a lined-up tight gap.  The bones actually have molecular microscopic superhighways called trabeculae (pronounced trah – beck – you – la).  If these trabeculae actually line up, then healing is super fast.  Of course, the odds of perfectly lining up microscopic highways is slim to none.

“The closer the trabeculae line up, the faster the healing,” says Doc Truli.

That’s why it is important to set a bone and line up a dislocated bone quickly.  It is logical and scientific.

Avoid Movement at the Fracture

This one’s a biggee.  If the fracture site were to stay perfectly still, not even moving a little when the patient breathes in and out, healing would be speedier.  The bone does know how to bridge gaps and lay down new bone.  If the site moves, then the movement, and the change in the blood supply’s oxygen tension to the area, actually changes they composition of what grows at the fracture site.

1. Best

No movement, like with a metal plate correctly surgically applied ; new, strong bone grows

2. Good

A bit of movement, like in a cast: adequate bone grows with a callous of bone around the area, and then after the healing, reshapes over time not a proper, normal bone

3. Crappy

Movement.  Like a dog has a cast or a splint and keeps running on it and taking it off in between vet visits.  The result?  A fibrous connective tissue “false joint” bridging the gap, but bending and flopping.   Essentially, not strong or useful or, even worse, a non-union.  The bone just stops the healing process and no further healing can occur without medical help.

What Can be Done?

Surgery.  Refresh the injury site to stimulate new healing.  Install a metal plate.  Many small breed dogs may break the arm again, so the metal plate also provides strength for the future!

How to Avoid?

These dogs love to jump!  They believe they are invincible!  You probably won’t be able to keep them off the sofa or the bed.  But, be certain no child under 7 years old plays alone with the dog.  Teach children to sit and hold a small breed dog, not walk around with them, or worse, swing them by the legs in the air.  Reconsider that Saint Bernard adoption; large dogs often sit on or trip on small dogs and inadvertently break those legs!

Arnold underwent reparative surgery.  This time he healed just fine!

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