When you think of cats, you might think of graceful and agile animals that can jump from high places— but even the best feline out there can miss, noted PetMD, a vet authored and approved website. Fractures refer to broken bones; there are various type of fractures with respect to the location of the fracture, the complexity of the injury, and whether the fragments pierce the skin, explained Ernest Ward, DVM of VCA Hospitals, an operator of over 1,000 animal hospitals in the US and Canada. Falls and traffic-related accidents such as being hit by a car are some of the common causes of broken bones. The most commonly broken bones are the femur, pelvis, jaw, and tail.
Long Bone Fractures In Cats (2016)
Catarina Borges Cardoso and colleagues of journal portal Research Gate aimed to retrospectively assess a population of cats with long-bone fractures for six years. A total of 141 cats were evaluated for the study. 90.07% of cats were crossbreed, 6.38% were Siamese, and 3.55% were Persian. The fractures were observed in cats from six to 180 months of age, with 58.16% over 12 months of age and 31.20% over 12 months of age.
The weight of the cats ranged from 0.3 kilograms to 6.3 kilograms and 68.08% had a body weight greater or equal to 2.0 kilograms. Meanwhile, 27.66% had lower body weight than two kilos while 4.25% of cases had no information on the cats’ body weight. The causes of fractures varied, but the most common one was motor vehicle accidents (42.55%), followed by dog bites (12.76%), falls (4.25%), and accidents in general (6.38%). The authors found that the owner failed to determine a cause in 34.04% of cases.
143 fractures (79.89%) occurred in the hind limbs, with the femur (63.64%) being the most affected bone. This was followed by the tibia/fibula (36.36%). 20.11% of fractures occurred in the forelimbs, along with fractures in the radius/ulna (52.78%) and in the humerus (47.22%). Concerning the cats’ forelimbs and hind limbs, the femur was the most affected bone (50.84%), followed by the tibia/fibula (29.05%), radius/ulna (10.61%), and humerus (9.50%).
Closed fractures (85.47%) were more prevalent than open fractures (11.12%), though there was no information about such conditions in 3.35% of cases. The bones most often associated with open fractures were tibia/fibula (70%), followed by the femur (30%)— which might be related to the severity of the injury.
Regarding the extent of damage, fractures may be classified as either complete (complete disruption of the bone continuity) or incomplete (partial disruption or if one or more fragments are separated). 67.03% of the diaphyseal femur fractures were complete, 8.79% were multifragmental, and 2.20% were incomplete. In the forelimbs, 82.35% of the humeral shaft fractures were complete while 5.88% were incomplete and multifragmental. 63.16% of radius/ulna fractures were complete, while 15.79% were multifragmental.
The researchers concluded that the population—constituting mainly of domiciled crossbred cats, below 12 months of age, weighing over or equal to two kilograms—were more affected by complete and closed fractures of the femur due to traffic accidents.
What Are the Signs of A Fracture?
Pain is the main symptom of a fracture. Your cat will try to hide its pain, but it is still best to remain vigilant. If your cat cries, howls, moans, or growls when touched, it is a sign of a fracture. Other symptoms include not being able to walk, not using a limb or tail, and refusing to eat or groom. Swelling or bruising in the affected area can be a sign of a fracture too. There are cases when a bone may penetrate the skin, which is called a compound fracture.
How Are Fractures Diagnosed?
The veterinarian will be able to detect a fracture by “looking for pain, swelling, and a grinding sensation between the ends of the broken bones.” An x-ray will be used to confirm the diagnoses and look for additional injuries. If none, the veterinarian will use the x-ray of your cat’s fractured limb to identify which method of fixation to use. Once the fracture is repaired, another x-ray will be done to evaluate how well the fragments of the bone have been rejoined. It will also determine the exact placement of the pins and/plates.
How Are Fractures Treated?
Fracture repair aims to enable the rapid healing of the fracture and to get your cat to use its leg as soon as possible. In most cases, this entails rebuilding the broken bone and fixing it in its original position with metallic implants. The most common methods of fixing fractures are putting a stainless steel pin in the affected bone’s marrow cavity and plating the bone in position using a plate screwed outside of the bone.
Another common method is using an external fixator, in which the veterinarian will place several short stainless steel pins vertically into the fragments. The veterinarian will then connect the pins on the outside of your cat’s leg using metal bars and clamps.
The method that the veterinarian will use depends on your cat’s type of fracture, what equipment they have available, and other injuries your cat sustained to other limbs. The veterinarian will also take into account the age of your cat and its temperament, as well as your finances.
What Happens After My Cat’s Fracture Has Been Repaired?
Your veterinarian will normally hospitalize your pet for a few days to ensure that there are no immediate post-operative complications like surgical site infections, movement of the surgical implants or any other issues. A soft bandage may be placed on the fractured limb to provide additional support and to minimize soft tissue swelling. This is done after the fracture has been repaired. The limb may also be placed in a rigid cast, though this is generally avoided or done on rare occasions.
Your veterinarian will usually prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection. Pain relief medications may also be administered during the post-operative period. Some cats will not eat well while hospitalized, causing them to lose weight. Your veterinarian will discharge your cat as soon as it is safe to do so to promote optimal healing. In most cases, your cat will resume normal activity levels in about three to four months after repair.
Broken bones are painful for cats even if they try to hide their pain. Your vet can identify where the fracture occurred as well as other complications that arise after sustaining a broken bone. Recovery will take time, but your cat will be active after three to four months.