A bone fracture is a medical condition in which there is a damage in the continuity of the bone. A fracture is a break or crack in a bone. Although we commonly think of fractures as involving a leg, it is also possible to fracture other bones in the body examples being: the skull, jaw, spine, ribs and pelvis as well as the long bones and small bones of the front and back limbs.
Practically every bone in your animal’s body is susceptible to fracture, and some, like spinal fractures, have a higher priority to treat. The symptoms that arise with fractures are based on the body part injured and any organ damage. Fractures are usually caused by a traumatic event; however, pathologic fractures can occur from relatively low energy events when preexisting disease such as a tumor or a metabolic bone disease like arthritis weakens the bone.
Causes of Fractures
A fracture is typically caused by some type of trauma to a bone. This trauma might occur as a result of a fall, physical abuse, motor vehicle accident, high force impact or stress as well as disease. Normal, everyday activities can cause bone fractures in animals with diseases that weaken the bones.
Signs and symptoms
Although bone tissue itself contains no nociceptors (sensory receptors for painful stimuli), bone fracture is painful for several reasons:
- Breaking in the continuity of the periosteum (is a membrane that covers the outer surface of all bones, except at the joints of long bones), with or without similar discontinuity in endosteum (is a thin membrane of connective tissue that lines the inner surface of bones), as both contain multiple sensory receptors.
- Edema (a condition characterized by an excess of watery fluid collecting in the cavities or tissues of the body) of nearby soft tissues caused by bleeding of torn periosteal blood vessels evokes pressure pain.
- Muscle spasms trying to hold bone fragments in place
Damage to adjacent structures such as nerves or vessels, spinal cord and nerve roots (for spine fractures), or cranial contents (for skull fractures) can cause other specific signs and symptoms. The symptoms that arise with fractures are based on the body part injured and any organ damage. Typical symptoms include:
– Obvious Discomfort
– Extreme weakness or depression
– Difficulty Breathing
– Abdominal discomfort or distention
– A change in mental status
Treatment of Fractures
- Bone fractures should be treated as quickly as possible to avoid complications and ensure complete healing. Regular exercise and sufficient amounts of calcium in your animal’s diet help strengthen the bones and prevent bone fractures. You can also help prevent bone fractures and other skeletal-related injuries in your animal by limiting the movement area of any dangerous objects.
- Stress fractures often require no more than rest, anti-inflammatory medicines, and temporarily discontinuing the activity that has caused the injury.
- More severe fractures, such as those that are open, multiple, or to the hip or back, need to be evaluated right away. Most fractures are immobilized with a cast, brace, splint, or sling.
- Surgery may be necessary when a fracture is open, severe, or has resulted in severe injury to the surrounding tissues. Severe fractures may require internal devices, such as screws, rods, or plates, to hold the bone in place. The length of time it takes for a bone fracture to heal and the need for physical therapy after treatment depend upon the severity of the fracture and the age and health of your animal.
- Late assistance may cause the bone to heal wrongly with the bone not joined correctly leading to deformity as well as permanent lameness if injury is on limbs.
In the end it is up to you as a farmer to insure that there are no unnecessary injuries especially during handling that can cause fractures. That on its own would reduce incidence of these common condition.
- Sprecher, D. J., Hostetler D. E. and Kaneene J. B. (1997). A lameness scoring system that uses posture and gait to predict dairy cattle reproductive performance. Theriogenology. 47:1179-1187.