Broken Leg In Cats – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

cat with broken leg
Image Pattie, Flickr

Also known as fractures, most broken bones in cats are caused by trauma, such as being hit by a car or falling from a height. The most common bone breakages seen in cats is a broken pelvis, broken legs, and broken tail. This article refers to broken legs, for more information on broken pelvis in cats, read here.

How can I tell if my cat has a broken leg?

Symptoms of a broken leg may vary depending on the severity. Common signs include:

  • Reluctance to bear weight on the affected leg
  • Limping
  • Pain and tenderness
  • Swelling
  • You may see the bone sticking through the skin
  • Deformity or unusual bend in the limb
  • If the injury has just occurred, you may notice your cat breathing rapidly
  • Shock

Fractures fall into two categories. Closed and open. A closed (simple) fracture is when the bone remains inside the tissue. An open (or compound) fracture is when the bone sticks through the skin.

Immediate care:

Veterinary attention should be sought immediately if you suspect your cat has a broken leg. If your veterinarian is some distance away, you may need to splint the limb to prevent further injury occurring.

A piece of cardboard (or the cardboard centre of a paper towel roll) or rolled up newspaper can be used around the limb, wrap the splint in gauze or tape or secure with pantyhose or cling film. Make sure the tape/gauze isn’t too tight that it cuts off the circulation. The splint should be long enough to reach the joints above and below the break. When splinting, do not attempt to straighten the leg yourself.

If a compound fracture has occurred, place a piece of sterile gauze or a sanitary towel immediately over the wound and then splint. Do not try to push the bone back under the skin.

Be aware that a cat in pain may lash out. So caution must be used to avoid injury to yourself.

How is a broken leg treated?

Cats with fractures will need to be carefully examined by your veterinarian as they may have other injuries such as a broken pelvis, organs, and soft tissue damage (to name a few).

Your veterinarian will perform an x-ray to check for breakage and assess the extent of the damage.

A simple break which does not involve the joints may be treated either with a simple splint or using pins and wires. If the break has occurred in multiple places then a bone plate may be used to realign the bones and hold them in place.

Home care:

Once at home, your cat will need to be confined to a small area while he recuperates. Climbing and jumping should be avoided at this time. A quiet room is one option, or if necessary, a crate with a bed, litter tray, and food/water bowls.