A cat has 244 bones in his body which make up the skeleton. Any of these can be broken although some more commonly than others. Most broken bones in cats occur in the jaw, the leg, skull and pelvis and are commonly caused by either car accidents or falls from a height. Certain medical conditions such as cancer can also lead to broken bones. A broken bone is also referred to as a "fracture".
Bones are classified by the type of break and if the injury has broken the skin.
Greenstick fractures are cracks in the bones and are seen more commonly in young cats.
Complete breaks can be either open or closed. Open (or compound breaks occur when the bone protrudes through the skin, closed (or simple) breaks are when the skin remains intact.
Stable fracture - The broken ends of the bones line up.
Comminuted fractures are breaks where the bone is broken into several pieces.
Complicated fracture is where structures around the broken bone area also injured.
What are the symptoms of a broken bone?
Symptoms depend on the location of the break but may include:
Reluctance to bear weight on a limb.
Swelling and tenderness.
Signs of shock, such as pale gums, rapid breathing, collapse.
How is a broken bone diagnosed?
All broken bones require veterinary attention. Bear in mind that as most broken bones are caused by car accidents and falls, where the body endures a lot of force/trauma, internal injuries can be quite common too. Signs of internal injuries can be harder to detect, but bleeding from several places (mouth, nose, anus) can occur. Your veterinarian may wish to perform other tests to determine if there are any internal injuries.
The best way to diagnose a broken bone is via x-ray.
Other tests may be performed to check for internal injuries/damage and may include:
Complete ultrasound, blood count, biochemical profile and urinalysis.
How are broken bones treated?
This depends on the location of the break and the severity. Obviously, if other injuries have occurred at the same time, these too will need to be treated.
Broken legs can be immobilised with splints.
If the bone is completely broken and the ends have been displaced, surgery will be required to re-align the bones to their original position. Pins and/or plates may be used to stabilise the broken bones.
A severely broken leg or tail may require amputation.
Some broken bones may require cage rest for several weeks. Surgery and cage rest are the treatment of choice for a broken pelvis. Our cat broke his pelvis several years ago and had to go on cage rest for several weeks, he did surprisingly well for an active cat and didn't seem to mind at all. He made a full recovery.
The prognosis for a cat with a broken bone is generally quite good as long as he receives prompt medical attention.