Dr. K's Case of the Month: The Curious Kitten

It’s time for another Case of the Month with Dr. Heather Kovac!

The Patient


Jiffy, a 6 month old male neutered domestic shorthair kitten, was brought in to see me because he could not bear weight on his back right leg.


The Case


The previous night, he was out on the patio and then had come inside limping. His owner had checked him all over and could not find any wounds but he would not let her touch his upper leg at all. During his examination, he was holding his back right leg completely off the ground and would not put any weight on it. He let me touch his toes and the skin over his leg but he reacted when I tried to manipulate the leg at all.

There was no evidence of a bite wound or any swelling. Jiffy was given some pain medication and then taken to radiology for some x-rays. The x-rays showed that he had fractured his tibia (lower leg bone) just above the hock (ankle) in a spiral pattern. Luckily, the bones were in good alignment and he would not need surgery to repair the fracture.

A splint was applied from the toes to the hip and wrapped in soft padding. The owners were instructed to keep the kitten confined to a small space such as a dog crate for the next few days while he was getting used to the bandage and also to keep him from jumping and running around. He was sent home with a few days of pain medication and also a sedative to use if needed to keep him calm. He was scheduled to come back in 1 week for a splint change. The splint would need to stay on at least 4 weeks and be changed weekly.

Being the silly kitten that he is, Jiffy did not appreciate having the splint on his leg and proceeded to remove it almost instantly when he got home. In fact, Jiffy had to come in a total of 4 times in 24 hours to have the splint replaced. After that, he finally accepted that this splint needed to stay on!

He came back weekly for 3 weeks and was such a good boy during his bandage changes. Unfortunately, during the 4th week, Jiffy developed a skin infection on his toes of the bandaged foot. This is not an uncommon complication if the bandage gets wet for some reason. His foot was cleaned thoroughly and he was given an injection of a long acting antibiotic. The bandage could not be replaced due to the infection so the owner was instructed to keep him in the dog crate 100% of the time with an E-collar in place so he was not able to lick himself for 1 more week.

Finally, at the end of the 4 weeks, an x-ray was taken which revealed a perfectly healed bone! His skin had healed up nicely too. The owner was instructed to slowly return Jiffy to his regular routine, keeping him in the crate when not being supervised for another few days.


The Outcome


Due to this owner's unwavering compliance, Jiffy has made a full recovery and hopefully will stay out of trouble from now on. It was determined that he must have broken his leg by getting his foot caught in a wicker chair on the patio. He likely got it stuck and tried to jump down which twisted the bone causing the spiral fracture.


Take Away


Young animals are quick healers. An older cat would have probably needed to keep the splint on for 6-8 weeks. Other types of fractures often require surgical repair which would involve an outside orthopedic specialist. Bodies are amazing and wonderful! It is so rewarding to witness healing first hand and see a case from start to finish knowing that despite a few setbacks, the outcome was a success.

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