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Angular Limb Deformities in Cats

By: Dr. Cathy Reese

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An angular limb deformity is an abnormally shaped or crooked limb that results from abnormal growth of the bones. Angular limb deformities are most commonly seen in the forearm (radius/ulna), but can also be seen in the lower part of the hind leg (tibia/fibula).

Injury to young, growing bones can result in an angular limb deformity. These injuries can include being hit by a car, stepped on, dropped or getting a limb caught in the doorway. Abnormally shaped bones then put abnormal forces on the joints, which can lead to pain and arthritis.

Diagnosis

Your veterinarian will ask you many questions to develop a complete history of the progression of the problem. These questions will include:

  • What is your pet's age?
  • Was there any traumatic event?
  • What symptoms have you noticed?
  • How long have they been going on?
  • What treatments have you tried?
  • What were the results of the treatment?

    Your veterinarian will also examine your pet completely, including checking for a fever, listening to his heart and lungs, palpating your pet's legs, checking for pain, checking the mobility of the joints and checking symmetry between the legs.

    X-rays are usually taken of the affected leg and the opposite leg to compare the affected side with the normal side. If it is a recent injury, there might not be obvious X-ray findings early on. These initial X-rays should be used as a baseline to compare to future X-rays.

    Treatment

    Early diagnosis and treatment is essential for the best chance for a successful outcome.
    Surgery is often necessary to straighten bones affected by an angular limb deformity. The type of surgery performed depends on the individual injury, the bone(s) affected and the patient's age and growth potential. Often, the abnormality in the limb is severe enough to warrant more than one surgery to repair it.

    Home Care

    After corrective surgery, the pet should have rest and restriction from activity for about 4 to 8 weeks to allow the bones to heal. Frequent re-check examinations by your surgeon are necessary to identify potential problems and correct them as soon as possible.

    Re-check X-rays are necessary to monitor the progress and assess the success of the corrective surgery. They are also important to see if the bone, which is often cut during the corrective surgery, has healed enough to allow unrestricted activity.

    If your pet licks or chews at his incision, an Elizabethan collar may be necessary to keep him from opening or infecting the incision. If a bandage, splint or cast has been placed on the limb, it is important to keep the pet from chewing at it, and to keep the bandage clean and dry. A wet bandage or one that has been chewed up must be replaced as soon as possible. A chewed bandage loses most of its supportive qualities.

    Preventative Care

    Follow your veterinarian's instructions closely to get the best results. If you own a young, growing pet and he becomes injured, have your veterinarian examine him. Compare the length and straightness of the unaffected and affected leg, and contact your veterinarian as soon as possible if you notice a difference.

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