Fractured bones

From the monthly column “On The Line”,  ShowSight,  The Dog Show Magazine, July 2019 Issue. Click to subscribe

If you are a Toy dog breeder you may have been through the stress of having one of your own dogs or an owner’s dog suffer a broken leg. That in itself is traumatic but the aftermath can be equally as stressful to you, the owner, and to the dog. We know there are ways to build and select for strong bones in Toy dogs but most breeders must not know that… So let us look at ways for both breeders and owners to minimize the risk of broken bones
and/or get through it with less trauma.

First, if it should happen a lot depends on the veterinarian and that often depends on other factors, i.e. how long have you or the owner been a client? Does he own his own practice or is he an employee who must maximize profit? How old is he or she?

Tip: in my personal experience, best of all is a large animal vet who, due to age or injury, had to “downsize” to a small animal practice. Why? Because more often than not, it means he or she is of an era where the animal came first, not as a slogan or sales pitch but from a time when veterinarians either grew up in a veterinary family or one that operated a dairy or raised animals NOT for slaughter. Believe it or not, people still breed sheep, goats, horses, etc. because they “fancy” them.

So what happens if your dog suffers a broken leg? Prevailing practice is that a veterinarian anesthetizes and admits him to apply a splint, thus exposing your pet to needless stress and you to more expense.

Here’s a classic example. received a complaint from a medical professional who thought admitting his dog was unnecessary and typical of the “gouging” complaints doctors are sometimes faced with. I smiled. He said his field dog had a clean break which, had it been a child, would have been radiographed, set, casted and sent home in about an hour. He wryly added that costs were about the same!

In another case, a toy breed with a clean break was put under anesthesia to be x-rayed and have a splint applied. He was then placed in a steel cage in a hostile environment among strangers, surrounded by other dogs moaning in pain or barking-begging to go home. The little dog was released late the next day with instructions to return (repeatedly) to have the splint adjusted. The splint may have been a better choice than a heavier cast but that isn’t the point.

Whether the current protocol was more stressful for the dog or the owner is a toss-up but it was obviously more profitable to the veterinary practice. Most owners accept it when a vet says the dog must be hospitalized. They rarely ask why. The owner is usually stressed and not always thinking clearly. But you ShowSight readers are experienced dog owners so you would agree that hospitalizing for a broken bone should only be necessary if the attending veterinarian senses the owner is unlikely or incapable of providing proper home care.

Obviously the best care is prevention. Especially in toy breeds, genetic selection for strong, dense bone can diminish the likelihood of such accidents. No AKC Breed Standard contravenes that common sense protocol although admittedly some breeders “fancy” thin, tiny bones in toy breeds… I can’t imagine WHY? In over two decades of toy breed ownership I have only had one broken bone but have had top ranked Chihuahuas and Toy Fox Terriers. The point is that toy breeds can have strong bones and still win.

There is no moral to this story but there is a lesson to be learned. Every puppy, from Chihuahua to Great Dane needs adequate exercise to build strong bones. That is within your control as an ethical educated breeder, trainer or veterinarian. Not only that, it is your duty to properly advise your client or customer. 

  • Barbara “BJ” Andrews is the breeder of over 300 AKC Champions including over a dozen All-Time record holders. She is the author of 8 breed books and founder of 3 AKC Breed Clubs. In 1998 she launched the world’s first public website ( followed by and which, as part of the NetPlaces Network, serves all facets of dog ownership and exhibition. She and husband Bill pioneered the Akita, Miniature Bull Terrier, and Toy Fox Terrier to AKC recognition and BJ served on the board of each Parent Club. She has judged in England and AKC Specialty Sweeps. She was awarded UKC All Breeds approval but has never applied for an AKC judges license because it could interfere with objective reporting on the sport.

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