Fractures: Beyond the Limbs

They might be less common than limb fractures, but skull, rib, pelvis, and withers fractures are no less important.

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They might be less common, but skull, rib, pelvis, and withers fractures are no less important.

A broken bone in a large quadruped is serious stuff. Unlike a kid with a broken arm, you can’t just slap a cast on a horse and send him on his way. Thankfully, fractures aren’t frequent occurrences in horses. When they do happen the most common site is in the distal limb, particularly the cannon bone. But bones can break in a variety of places, and understanding the causes and associated complications will help you become more familiar with these less-common but no-less-important potential fracture sites. 

Skull Fractures

The equine skull is a formidable 40-pound (on average) structure that by all appearances is sturdy, but its 14 major bones are susceptible to external traumatic injury. Horses most commonly injure the frontal, nasal, and maxillary (upper jaw) bones that form the front of their face by running into solid objects. Horses can also fracture these thin bones if they toss their head into a hard object or get it stuck in a small space. If the eye is involved, the zygomatic arch (cheek bone) and the orbit bones can fracture as well.

If your horse receives a blow to the head, have your veterinarian evaluate him carefully to detect fractures that might not be immediately obvious. Horses with displaced frontal and maxillary bone fractures might sport a recognizable depression or divot in the skull, even though the overlying skin is often intact

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Written by:

Joan Norton, VMD, Dipl. ACVIM, founded Norton Veterinary Consulting and Education Resources to promote equine veterinary education to horse owners, professionals, and veterinarians. She is the author of Equine First Aid Handbook.

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