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Fracture of the Femur in Cats

By: Dr. David Diamond

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Of all of the long bone fractures (humerus, femur, radius/ulna and tibia), femoral fractures are the most common, comprising approximately 20 to 25 percent of all fractures in small animal practices.

Motor vehicle trauma is the most frequent cause of femoral fractures, and the victims tend to be young, non-neutered males who roam away from home and get hit by a car. Cats of both sexes and of any age are susceptible to this type of trauma if not kept restrained.

Cats can develop non-traumatic fractures of the femur when certain disease conditions exist. These fractures, also known as "pathologic fractures" are commonly caused by:

  • Malnourishment
  • Systemic illness such as kidney disease
  • Endocrine disorder such as hyperparathyroidism
  • Bone infection (osteomyelitis)
  • Cancer (neoplasia) of the bone

    Immature bones have growth plates (physes) that are still "open" and growing. These regions of the young bone are generally weaker than the bone that has already been created. The energy of a trauma often results in fracture at these parts of the immature bone and can lead to premature "closure" of the physes resulting in abnormal growth of either end of the femur. Frequently encountered fractures of the immature femur include:

  • Physeal fractures at the end of the bone near the hip joint
  • At the distal physis near the knee
  • Fractures of the middle of the bone

    Mature bones have more uniform strength along their entire length and the energy of each particular trauma may lead to fractures in various portions of the bone. Frequently encountered fractures of the mature femur include femoral neck fractures, femoral shaft fractures, and joint fractures involving the stifle or hip.

    Fractures of the midshaft (diaphysis) of the femur can be classified as "open" or "closed" depending on whether the skin surface has been damaged during the injury. Open fractures have a greater chance of getting infected and may have more complications than closed fractures.

    As with all fractures, fractures of the femur can also be classified as "simple," if the bone breaks into two pieces, or "comminuted," if there are multiple pieces.

    Each case of femoral fracture needs to be evaluated in its entirety, including the age of your pet, the severity of the fracture, the experience of the surgeon and financial concerns of the owner, to determine the most appropriate treatment. Inappropriate case management, inadequate surgical stabilization, or poor aftercare can lead to complications such as non-unions (fractures that will not heal), malunions (fractures that heal in an abnormal direction or orientation), osteomyelitis (bone infection) or a non-functional leg.

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