Pet Tibial Fracture Repair Surgery

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Learning that your pet needs surgery can be an overwhelming experience, especially if you are unsure of what the procedure entails. At Anicira, we work with pet parents to ensure that you are well-informed before your pet’s surgery. Our veterinary team provides compassionate care before, during, and after surgery to ensure that your pet is safe and comfortable.

What is tibial fracture repair surgery, and why does my pet need it?

Tibial fracture repair surgery is a procedure performed to treat fractures or breaks in the tibia, which is the larger bone located in the lower leg. Tibial fractures can occur due to trauma, such as a fall, accident, or athletic injury.

Pre-Surgical Instructions

Admission Time – Bring your pet to Anicira at 7 am.
Food – You may feed your pet a quarter of their normal breakfast no later than 6 am.
Water – Your pet may have water up until the time of the surgery.
Pre-surgical exam – Your pet must be in good health and show no signs of sickness such as coughing, sneezing, or diarrhea.
Medical records – Please bring proof of rabies vaccination if you have not already provided this. If your cat or dog has not been previously vaccinated or lacks proof of vaccination, we will administer a rabies vaccine on the day of surgery. If you have not already sent your medical records, please bring all relevant medical records.

Tibial Fracture Repair Surgery

Before surgery, our veterinary team will perform a thorough pre-surgical examination to ensure that your pet is a good candidate for anesthesia. It is strongly recommended that your pet receives pre-anesthetic blood work to ensure that no health concerns go undetected.

Your pet will be under general anesthesia. The surgical team will prepare the surgical site by shaving and then cleaning the area to remove bacteria and decrease the risk of potential infection.

During surgery, the veterinarian will make an incision near the fracture site and use tools to bring the broken bone back in a more normal alignment. Once the bone is aligned, the veterinarian will use pins, plates and/or wire to keep the bone in place while it heals. In most cases, these pins, plates, or wire are left in place for the rest of the pet’s life. However, in some cases, they will need to be removed once bone healing is complete.

Caring for Your Pet After Tibial Fracture Repair Surgery

Anesthesia may take 24 to 48 hours to wear off.

  • Your pet may be groggy or whiny during this time.
  • Keep your pet confined in a secure, quiet, and comfortable space. We recommend a crate or a small room.
  • Isolate them from other pets and children while recovering.

Make sure your pet wears their Elizabethan Collar (E-Collar / Cone)

  • Your pet’s surgical site will take 10 to 14 days to heal. During this period, they should wear an e-collar at all times.
  • Allowing your pet to lick their incision can lead to infection or dehiscence (opening of the incision).

Offer food & water after surgery

  • When your pet returns home, offer them food and water
  • Anesthesia may cause nausea so your pet may not be interested in food
  • If vomiting occurs, wait 12 hours before offering more food.
  • Resume regular feeding the day after surgery. Your pet’s appetite should be back to normal within 24 hours.
  • If your pet refuses to eat, you may try offering a bland diet such as white rice and lean protein (for example boiled chicken breast) while they regain a normal appetite.
  • Please do not feed your pet junk food, table scraps, or milk.

Give all medications as directed

  • Your pet will be sent home with oral pain medication. Please follow the instructions on the label.
  • If possible, please give the pain medication with food. If your pet has no appetite, please ensure they still take the pain medication.
  • OTC pain relievers such as Tylenol and Advil are toxic to pets. Please do not give these to your pet.

Other shaved areas

  • Your pet may have shaved areas on one or more legs from where an IV catheter was placed.
  • These areas may be irritated or bruised. If your pet is excessively licking, please use a taste deterrent spray or e-collar to prevent self-trauma.
  • If your pet went home with a brightly colored wrap on their leg, this should be removed 30 minutes after returning home.

Reduce pet’s caloric intake

  • Extra weight can make recovery difficult.
  • We recommend that pets with orthopedic disease maintain a body condition score of 4-5 on the Nestle Purina Body Condition System.

Caring for the incision and what to expect

  • Monitor the incision for redness, discharge, or swelling
  • If your pet tolerates it, apply an ice pack wrapped in a thin cloth to the incision for 10 minutes 3 times daily for the next two days. For the following two days, apply a warm compress to the surgical site three times daily and leave it in place for 10 minutes per application. Use a washcloth soaked in warm water (not too hot for your skin, wrung out, placed in a plastic bag, and applied to the wound).
  • Swelling usually develops at the ankle in the first week. The swelling is usually soft and jelly-like, and is caused by fluid under the skin moving down the leg with gravity, and will resolve on its own.
  • Bruising is also possible and will go away within the first two weeks.

Please schedule an appointment for an incision check and suture removal in 10-14 days.

  • Your pet may need to be sedated for the removal procedure, so please plan accordingly.

Schedule an appointment for radiographs at eight weeks to assess bone healing.

  • If the bone at the fracture site has healed, your pet may be released from our care.
  • If the bone is not healed, we recommend continued confinement and a 12-week post-op recheck with radiographs. Please recheck with Anicira Veterinary Center in 12 weeks for the additional X-rays.

How much can my pet do after tibial fracture repair surgery?

The following activity guidelines are designed to minimize the chance of complications while allowing good rehabilitation so that when the bone is healed enough to allow heavier activity, the muscles and other soft tissues are more ready. SLOW walks are recommended until your pet puts the foot down consistently with each step. NO running, jumping, or playing with other pets is allowed in the first eight weeks after surgery. In between the prescribed periods of activity below, keep your pet in a crate or small area with good footing where they will not be able to run and jump. Taking a “less is more” approach is best for a smooth healing process. It’s not fun for anyone involved but will be appreciated by you and your pet when everything looks good at the recheck!

Week 1

Your pet should be confined while in the house, with no running, jumping, playing, or use of stairs. A crate or kennel should be used for activity confinement. When you are home, and your pet is being closely supervised, your pet can spend time with you in a confined room with carpeting to avoid slipping and with no furniture that would encourage jumping. Do 5 minutes of short and slow controlled leashed walks. At first, these walks should be for elimination purposes only. The slower your dog walks, the more likely they will place the repaired leg down while walking.

Week 2

As long as your pet appears comfortable, we will start short leash walks. If there is excessive bruising/swelling, or you have other concerns, please contact us before starting activity. Leash walks should be started to encourage weight bearing on the operated limb. On a level surface, 5-10 minute slow leash walks should be performed 3-5 times daily. Keep in mind that these walks are meant as light physical therapy. Walks should be in a “heel position” using a 4-6 ft leash.

Week 3 and 4

Leash walks should be slow and controlled for up to 15 minutes, 4 times a day. Perform Sit-to-Stand exercises, also known as puppy squats. You want to get your dog to sit down and immediately stand back up. Perform these 3-4 times a day.

Weeks 5 to 8

Continue with walks four times daily but increase the duration to 20 minutes per walk. If all is going well, including small inclines and declines. Continue Sit-to-Stand exercises and introduce Curb Work: To perform these exercises, your pet should step up small curbs. Curbs should be appropriate to your dog’s height. A small 10-30 pound dog should step on and off a curb that is about 2 inches high.

Radiographs should be taken by Anicira Veterinary Center at 8 weeks.

Weeks 8+

Once the X-rays are done eight weeks after surgery and show the proper amount of bone healing, walks can continue to be increased gradually (10 extra minutes per walk can be added per week) up to your pet’s normal amount. You can start to allow off-leash activities, including running, jumping, and playing with other pets. Start with 5 minutes of running or playing and 1-2 jumps up per day. Repeat that amount for two more days, then increase gradually as long as your pet is not limping more.

If there is any worsening lameness after any activity increase, your pet should be rested for 24 hours; then the activity should be reduced by half until the lameness improves, then work back up through the guidelines above.

By 1-2 months after the x-rays (3-4 months after surgery), no restrictions should be needed and the lameness should be gone. Please contact Anicira Veterinary Center if lameness persists. Thank you for entrusting your pet to our care. We look forward to hearing from you as the post-operative recovery progresses.

Rare, but serious surgical complications

Complications from a tibial fracture repair surgery are rare. If your pet experiences these issues after surgery, please contact Anicira.

  • Loss of joint mobility and muscle mass
  • Continued lameness
  • Worsening of arthritis
  • Non-union or delayed union
  • Infection of hardware (plates, pins, screw, wires) requiring a second surgery to remove
  • Luxating patella
  • Meniscus tear
  • Infection of the surgical site

Please contact Anicira, your primary care veterinarian, or an emergency clinic if any of the following occur:

  • No urine is passed for more than 24 hours
  • Pale gums
  • Severe pain, depression or weakness
  • Vomiting or Diarrhea
  • Labored breathing
  • Decreased appetite for more than 24 hours
  • Lethargy lasting more than 24 hours