Dear Dr. Wise:


The young cat next door fell out of a tree and broke its leg. We thought that would be the end of the poor cat but two days later, there he was outdoors hobbling around with the children. I didn’t know cats’ broken bones could be treated. My neighbor said the cat had surgery but didn’t know the details. Can you explain?


Answer: You are looking at the results of orthopedic surgery that has saved the lives and limbs of many pets.

You probably remember seeing a dog or cat with a cast on its leg. The treatment method, however, had its limitations. As we all know, cats are hard to keep quiet and inactive so external devices like casts get banged about. Further, casts and splints are effective for fractures of bones in the paw area or near the end of the leg.

Now there are more effective ways of repairing fractures. Surgery is used quite extensively in the larger bones. In cats, the most common method is to align the fractured bone and insert one or more pins from one end to the other through the core of the bone.

Sometimes if there are small bone fragments or if the fracture is at an angle, wires are placed around the bone to keep these fragments from moving. The important point is to stabilize the fracture site because, if there is movement in the fractured ends, healing will not take place.

Often pins are sufficient and casts and splints do not need to be used with them. Then the cat is up the next day and can put some pressure on its leg. Cats, particularly young ones, heal more quickly than dogs. Usually within a couple of weeks the cat is walking without a limp. Within six to eight weeks after surgery, the leg should be x-rayed again to see if the leg is healed enough to remove the pins.

In cases of extremely severe fractures, pins may not be sufficient to stabilize the break. In this case we can use a plate that is a long flat piece of metal. It is attached with screws directly to the bone along its length.


If you have a question, write Dr. Wise, Indiana Veterinary Medical Association, 201 S. Capitol Avenue, Suite 405, Indianapolis, IN, 46225, or

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