What are Ligament and Tendon Conditions?
Though ligament and tendon conditions are fairly common in cats, they require prompt care in order for full mobility to be restored.
The ligaments in a cat are a tough band that is composed of a white, slightly elastic, fibrous tissue that binds the ends of bones together. Ligaments prevent excessive movements that could cause dislocation or bone breakage. They are found throughout the cat's body where two bones meet. Tendons are composed of a fibrous tissue that connects the muscles to the bones. When conditions arise with the ligaments or tendons, the cat's mobility will suffer.
Symptoms of Ligament and Tendon Conditions in Cats
Depending on the location of the ligament or tendon that is affected and the condition that occurred, symptoms may vary slightly. These symptoms include:
- Subtle lameness that worsens over time
- Inability or unwillingness to exercise
- Resting foreleg on floor rather than in an upright position
- Pain or tenderness in paws, forelegs or hind legs
- Swelling in joints
- Swelling around muscles
- Grating sounds when joints are moved
- Walking with heel placed on ground
- Non-weight bearing lameness
There are several types of conditions that can affect the ligaments and tendons in cats. Some of these types include:
- Cranial cruciate ligament tear: a tearing of the ligament in the knee joint
- Palmar carpal ligament breakdown: tearing or wearing down of the ligaments in the wrist
- Bicipital tenosynovitis: inflammation of the tendon in the shoulder joint
- Brachii muscle rupture: rupture of the tendon in the upper limb
- Supraspinatus avulsion: rupture of the tendon that connects shoulder to upper limb
- Luxating patella: a condition in which the kneecap moves due to weakening or overextension of the ligaments and tendons
Causes of Ligament and Tendon Conditions in Cats
Most ligament and tendon problems occur due to a vehicular accident, trauma received from another animal, or injury from jumping from too high of a location. Vehicular accidents can cause fractures in the bones and hyperextend the tendons. A dog or other animal who attacks a cat may bite, causing the tendons or ligaments to become injured. When a cat lands on the ground incorrectly after jumping, the ligaments and tendons are at risk of tearing, rupturing or breaking down over time. Cats can also injure their tendons or ligaments slowly over time as a result of repetitive straining, overexertion, or fatigue.
Diagnosis of Ligament and Tendon Conditions in Cats
The veterinarian will need to know how long symptoms the have been present, any recent trauma or injuries that could have caused the ligament or tendon condition, and a complete list of symptoms. The veterinarian will gently examine the cat, feeling for signs of swelling and tenderness.
Radiography is the best way to determine what condition is affecting the cat. Radiography may include X-rays, which can eliminate fractured bones as the source of the problem; ultrasounds, which can identify swelling and tears in the ligaments and tendons; and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which can look for muscle injuries and tendon or ligament rupturing.
If the exact cause of the symptoms cannot be determined through radiography, the veterinarian may use an arthroscope to explore the affected ligaments and tendons. The arthroscope is a small endoscope that is inserted into the joint through a small incision. The veterinarian will use the arthroscope to explore the injured area and diagnose the problem. Samples of fluid or tissue may be removed using the arthroscope and sent to an outside lab for further analysis.
Treatment of Ligament and Tendon Conditions in Cats
Depending on the severity of the injury, surgery may need to occur. The cat will be placed under general anesthesia and a small incision will be made in the skin by the affected tendon or ligament. The veterinarian will then repair the problem and use sutures to close the incision.
Splint or Cast
The veterinarian may need the ligaments or tendons to remain immobile while they heal on their own. In these cases, a splint or cast will be placed on the cat in order to prevent mobility and re-injury from occurring.
The veterinarian may recommend physical therapy in order to strengthen the muscles, tendons, and ligaments. During physical therapy, the cat will be put through a series of range-of-motion exercises and receive massages in order to promote healing.
The veterinarian may place the cat on a special diet in order for its weight to be reduced. Cats who are overweight place more pressure on their joints and tendons, which can cause injuries to occur.
Cryotherapy, the placing of ice on the injured tendons or ligaments, may be recommended after surgery or splinting. Cryotherapy normally occurs for five to 10 minutes every eight hours over the course of several days. This procedure reduces swelling and decreases pain.
Recovery of Ligament and Tendon Conditions in Cats
With proper rehabilitation and prompt care, most cats recover fully from their ligament or tendon condition. Recommendations for physical therapy will need to be followed in order for the cat to recover properly. If surgery occurred, the cat will need to wear an Elizabethan collar in order to prevent biting of the sutures. Follow-up appointments with the veterinarian to monitor progress and healing are recommended.