The hind limb has two bones between the knee and the ankle joint, the tibia and fibula. The tibia is the larger weight-supporting bone, whereas the fibula supports minimal weight. Puppies have much softer bones than adults; therefore, more fractures occur in younger dogs. If the tibia fractures, the fibula usually fractures too.
Cause of fracture
In small breed dogs, the most common causes of fracture of the tibia are landing on the hind limb from a fall or being stepped on. In large breed dogs, usually substantial trauma is needed, such as being hit by a car. Gun shot injuries will result in an open wound over the fracture in which dirt and hair usually are driven into the tissues. This could potentially result in infection and delayed healing of the bone.
For most fractures of the tibia, a bone plate and series of screws are used to stabilize the fracture. This treatment results in the least aftercare for the client and has an excellent chance for a successful outcome. If the fracture is caused by a gunshot or other trauma that results in an open wound over the fracture site, an external fixator may be the treatment of choice. Also, if the bone is fractured in multiple small pieces, the best treatment may be an external skeletal fixator. This apparatus consists of multiple pins that penetrate the skin and bone and are connected to external bars that run parallel to the bone.
An older technique to repair a tibial fracture involves placement of a single pin into the marrow cavity of the bone and use of wires that are wrapped around the bone. This method of repair is only used in certain types of tibial fractures. The use of a cast as the sole treatment commonly results in a non-healing fracture or malalignment of the bone (bent bone).
Surgical repair of a fractured tibia with a plate and screws or external skeletal fixator offers multiple benefits over other treatments. These include a faster recovery, earlier use of the limb after surgery, a better chance to return to athletic activity, less risk of a second surgery being required, and better range of motion of the joints above and below the fracture. Uncommon complications include infection, non-healing of the fractures, breakage of the metal plate, osteoporosis of the bone, bone cancer induce by metal implants, cold sensitivity and fracture of the bone again.
For more information on this subject, speak to the veterinarian who is treating your pet.