Bone fractures, or fractures, can be uncomplicated, as a bone crosses, or more complicated, with, for example, several small fractures or a helical fracture.
It is not only the front and hind legs that can be fractured, but also the pelvis, jawbone, ribs and more. If a front or hind leg is broken, lameness is often seen, often block lameness (the cat does not support the leg at all) and the leg may have an abnormal position. If the bone is not completely off or if the bone pieces are close together and are embedded in strong muscles, the lameness may be less noticeable. Pain is a prominent symptom of bone fractures, both when touched and otherwise. Gradually, swelling also occurs around the fracture area.
If the cat has broken its jawbone, for example as a result of advanced periodontitis, it may have symptoms in the form of decreased or ceased appetite. In the case of a rib fracture, breathing problems can occur and in the case of a pelvic fracture, lameness or paralysis can be seen in the buttocks.
In connection with the clinical examination, the veterinarian looks at how the cat is moving and examines the lame leg manually. You look for tenderness, swelling, abnormal mobility and crepitation (if it “cracks” when the leg is manipulated or loaded). With the help of X-ray examination, it is possible to determine that the bone is broken, and to find out how the bone pieces are in relation to each other.
The choice of treatment is governed by which bone is broken and how the fractured ends are located. The treatment aims to fix the bone pieces in the right position against each other so that they can grow together again. Fixation can be done by splitting, plastering or bandaging, or internally, by operating in metal plates, screws, marrow pins etc. Larger bones, such as the femur, usually need internal fixation, while the toes and lower parts of the front or hind legs can heal with plaster or splints.
- Plastering and splitting – This is often a convenient method in the treatment of many fractures on the lower parts of the front and hind legs, ie below the elbow and knee respectively. In case of higher bone fractures, it is difficult to get the bone pieces as stable as the healing requires in this way. The cat may make several return visits for X-rays and plasterings before the fracture is completely healed.
- AO / osteosynthesis – the bone ends are fixed to each other with the help of metal plates and screws during an operation. The procedure is more costly, but since this fixation is usually very good, fewer return visits and X-ray examinations are usually required than with plaster casts, and the operation rarely needs to be repeated.
- Marrow nails, steel wire, etc. – other forms of internal fixation are to operate in metal rods inside the leg ends, and/or to fasten them together with the help of steel wire. It can be more difficult to achieve total immobility between the leg ends with these techniques, but usually the fracture heals well.
The healing time varies between three to four weeks and several months. Uncomplicated bone fractures can heal quickly if the bone fragments are well fixed and do not move in relation to each other. After the fracture itself heals, it takes a few more months before the bone reaches full strength.
Fractures usually heal without complications. In the case of more complicated fractures, healing may be delayed or poor and the cat may need to be operated on again. If the right treatment is given, the chances are good that the cat will return to a well-functioning life again.