Cast Is Not Necessarily the Answer for Leg of Cat Hit by Automobile

Ericson, a practicing Orange County veterinarian, is president of the Southern California Veterinary Medical Assn.

Q: About 4 months ago, our cat Squiggy was hit by a car. His left rear leg was broken just below the hip joint. We took him to a veterinarian, and we were told he would need surgery and a series of X-rays and treatment. The bill was going to be expensive, and we were unable to come up with any of the money needed to fix his leg, so we had him put to sleep. Recently, a friend of mine said that we could have simply had the leg put into a cast. Is my friend right?

B. Bates, La Habra

A: Without seeing the X-rays and the condition of your cat after the injury, it is very difficult to comment on a surgical evaluation. However, if your cat did have a fracture of the femur or upper leg bone that joins at the hip, a cast would have been both impractical and improper. The basics of fracture repair require that the joint above--the hip--and the joint below--the knee--be stabilized from moving in order to allow the bone to heal properly.

A cast would not be able to hold the cat’s hip joint immobile and still allow the cat to urinate or defecate. Repair of femoral fracture requires surgical procedures, such as a pin inside the bone, a bone plate that is screwed into the bone, or a series of external pins that pass through the bone and are held rigid by a bar. There may have been some pelvic fractures or injuries that would also have prevented the use of a splint or cast. Admittedly, surgery is expensive but probably necessary in this case. I recommend that you talk to your veterinarian again just to satisfy yourself that everything was proper. I hope you decide to get a new pet. If you do, I suggest you consider veterinary pet insurance that is available to help with the costs of such unexpected and expensive injuries.


Q: I am enclosing some “eggs” that are found here and there after our cat wakes up from her nap. I am most curious to know what they are, and I am hoping that you can identify them for me.

Pam McMillan, Garden Grove

A: In the packet with your letter was a collection of tapeworm segments that have become dried and look like small grains of rice. The tapeworm, as it matures, will shed individual segments called proglottids, each of which contains the eggs of the tapeworm. These segments are mobile and will move about on your cat’s coat and stool and into the environment, where they degenerate, making the eggs available for ingestion by flea larva. The larva develops into an infective flea, and if your cat accidently ingests one while grooming, she can reinfect herself with tapeworms. This is the major portion of the life cycle of the tapeworm. You need to have your cat treated for tapeworms and should also have her dipped or bathed for fleas to help reduce that exposure. Treating the house and yard for fleas will be necessary to reduce their populations and help prevent exposure to your cat. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you on the best methods for you and your cat.