Even though cats are known for their grace and agility, your spry kitty can suffer a broken leg by accident, injury or even a fall. Recognizing the symptoms of a broken leg and getting immediate veterinary treatment can help protect against infection and increase the chances of your cat making a full recovery.
Symptoms of a Broken Leg
A cat with a broken leg will be in pain and may hide from you. She may cry, howl or lie on her injured leg as a way to protect it. Your cat may wince, bite or hiss at you if you attempt to touch her leg or examine her. She may have a decreased appetite and may not groom herself as usual. You may notice a visible deformity, bruising or swelling, a refusal to bear weight on the broken limb, and in the case of trauma or severe injury, a bone protruding from the skin, such as in the case of a compound fracture.
Sprain Versus Break
A sprain is a stretched ligament or tendon, and is typically less severe than a break, though many of the symptoms are the same. Your cat may not bear weight, and there may be noticeable redness and swelling. If your cat is behaving unusually or appears to be in pain, seek medical attention. Many sprains and leg breaks are caused by high falls or car accidents. Your cat may be suffering internal injuries that may not be apparent, but need fast treatment.
What to Do at Home
If you suspect a broken leg, wrap your cat gently in a towel or thick blanket and try to keep her still and calm. If you notice bone poking through the skin, cover it with gauze to protect against infection and take your kitty to the vet as soon as possible. You may need to wear protective clothing to prevent being clawed or bitten, as even the most gentle cats can become aggressive when they’re in pain.
Diagnosing a Broken Leg
Your vet may be able to diagnose your cat’s injury through a physical examination, though sedation and X-rays may be necessary. If your cat suffered a compound fracture to her leg, surgical repair may be needed, as well as antibiotic treatment to protect against infection. A simple break may be splinted or placed in a cast to stabilize the leg while healing. Your vet will provide instruction for at-home followup care, which may include heat or ice and administration of pain medications.
Treatment and Recovery
You'll need to restrict your cat’s physical activities during her recovery process. This can be difficult if you have a highly active cat or an outdoor kitty. You may opt to confine your cat to a single room and remove anything she could jump on and further exacerbate her injury. Dressings will need to be kept clean and dry and may require regular changing. Follow your vet’s instructions for after-care and physical therapy to ensure complete recovery.