Simple Fracture (Broken Bones) in Cats
A simple fracture is a break in the continuity of bone or cartilage with minimal displacement or disruption of the normal structure. The bone is broken into two fragments. Fractures that result in multiple bone fragments are referred to as “comminuted.” Young growing animals are most commonly affected by simple fractures.
Simple fractures usually result from low-grade trauma, such as being stepped on or landing awkwardly during a fall. Cats with inadequate or inappropriate nutrition may be predisposed to simple fractures because poor bone quality may leave their skeletons prone to minor fractures from injuries that would not normally cause a problem. In older cats, simple or spiral fractures secondary to minimal trauma like slipping on a floor may suggest underlying weakness in the bone, perhaps a fracture secondary to a bone tumor.
Simple fractures may cause minimal soft tissue swelling at the fracture site. They can produce a non-weight-bearing lameness or, depending on the fracture location, no obvious lameness problems. In some cases, if not addressed, the bone may heal in an abnormal alignment or not heal at all. If the cause of the fracture is underlying metabolic or nutritional bone disease, this must be addressed to prevent subsequent fractures.
What to Watch For
Diagnosis of Fractures in Cats
A history of trauma may not be obvious, so your veterinarian will carefully question you about the events leading up to the injury. This may include questions about type of diet or the use of dietary supplements.
There may be swelling and pain associated with a fracture, but instability and crunchiness on palpation of the fracture site is uncommon with simple fractures. A leg may be completely non-weight bearing, or in the case of certain pelvic fractures, a cat may use the leg as if nothing has happened.
In most cats with simple fractures, there are no major life threatening injuries and so most patients are stable at the time of presentation. After a thorough physical examination, other tests may include:
Treatment of Fractures in Cats
Home Care and Prevention
In the case of a cast or splint, the toes or the top of the bandage will need to be checked daily for swelling, rubbing or chaffing. The cast or splint will need to stay clean and dry. It may need to be checked and changed frequently to avoid or address pressure sores, particularly the top of the elbow and the knee.
In cases of open fracture repair, there will be an incision that needs to be monitored for swelling redness or discharge. Stitches or staples will need to be removed in 10 to 14 days.
Your pet will need to rest to allow the fracture to heal. This time frame will be less for younger animals (two to four weeks) and longer for older animals (6 to 12 weeks or even more dependent on the nature of the fracture).
Follow up x-rays will be taken with your veterinarian to ensure the fracture is healing and that there are no problems with the implants.
If your pet is being fed an inappropriate diet, it must be changed to a balanced preparation, either homemade (after consultation with your veterinarian) or regular proprietary cat food. This should ensure healthy bone quality and avoid these simple fractures in the future.