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.