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What is Casting and Splinting?

Splinting a limb or applying a cast to a body part are simple and effective ways to isolate and prevent the movement of an injured body part and to give it time to properly heal. Cats (and animals in general) are often fitted with splints or casts when certain injuries occur, as unlike humans, they do not understand the need to rest damaged body parts as they heal and as such require physical restraint to limit their range of motion.

Casting and Splinting Procedure in Cats

To splint a limb, the vet will first apply a sedative or general anesthetic, depending on the cat's willingness to cooperate with the procedure. They will then properly align the ends of the broken bone and rest the splint alongside it. Next, they will secure the splint to the limb using straps which are tightened incrementally so as not to disturb the bone. If a cast is being applied, the vet will (after alignment) soak several layers of bandages in adhesive and press them together, smoothing out any air pockets and creases. Then they will wrap the broken limb in padding and wind the cast material around the outside, to prevent it from sticking directly to the cat’s hair or skin. Next, bandages are wrapped around the outside and the cast is left to dry.

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Efficacy of Casting and Splinting in Cats

If all goes well, the splint or cast will ensure a good standard of healing for the fractured bone. That said, due to the potential complications of this procedure, most vets will prefer a surgical option instead. Although more technically complex, by implanting screws and other metal structures to keep the bone in place, the vet can ensure that the cat will return to a semblance of its normal routine within a relatively short space of time. Internal fixation of the break will also ensure that there is no room for the bones to move out of alignment and heal incorrectly.

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Casting and Splinting Recovery in Cats

Following the procedure, owners will be required to keep a close eye on their cat. Not only will they have to restrict their cat's amount of exercise to avoid dislodging the bone, but they will also have to stay vigilant for the signs of potential complications. The vet will also most likely want to have regular follow-up appointments every few days in order to check the progress of the healing, look for signs of complications and replace the cast or splint if necessary. Whilst the healing time of younger cats can be quite short and they can be expected to be back to normal within as little as a few weeks. Older cats (who make up the majority of splint and cast users) can take as long as several months to fully heal. 

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Cost of Casting and Splinting in Cats

The price for applying a cast or splint to a cat can be surprisingly high, costing as much as $1,000 in some cases. The cost is, of course, dependent on several factors, including the age, overall health and medical history of the injured cat. On the other hand, alternative treatments such as internal fixation can be expected to cost just as much as a cast or splint.

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Cat Casting and Splinting Considerations

Although splinting or casting a damaged limb can seem like the best option for many cats, owners should bear in mind that the procedure does not come without a certain level of risk. The most obvious factor in this regard is the impediment to motion caused by the procedure. Without their natural dexterity, cats can fall victim to any number of additional injuries from being unable to evade dangers, to becoming prone to falling when attempting to navigate around the house. A more serious problem is the risk of cell death due to constriction by the cast or the bindings of the splint. Many cats can have a negative reaction to the constant pressure exerted by casts and splints, resulting in swelling, chafing, infection and even gangrene. In extreme cases, this can even result in amputation of the affected body part. For this reason, owners should keep a very close watch over their pet should they decide to go ahead with this procedure.

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Casting and Splinting Prevention in Cats

By making sure their pets have a safe living environment and are not allowed to venture near to main roads, owners can mitigate much of the risk of broken bones. Conversely, this does not mean that the cat should be confined to the house, as allowing them to exercise freely will aid the development of strong, healthy bones and joints.

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Casting and Splinting Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Black

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Idk

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Limping

How can I fix her broken paw it’s completely broken we think we found her outside a minute ago and we’re the wrist connects it’s completely broken

July 10, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Broken bones need evaluation and treatment via a veterinarian to heal appropriately. She needs to see a veterinarian immediately so x-rays can be performed and pain control provided. Depending on the location and type of fracture splinting or surgery may be recommended. These will not heal well on their own. Please give your veterinarian a call or go directly to a veterinary emergency clinic. Dr. Noble

July 10, 2020

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Kitzu

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Not sure

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4 Years

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Limping
Swollen Paw

Hello, the other day I heard a bang outside and my cat yowling. I ran outside & saw my cat run in one direction and another cat go in the other direction. I called to my cat but she didn't come home until a few hours later and I noticed her limping. It's her front left paw which she will hold in the air when she walks around. I've been keeping her inside since and she seems to be eating/drinking/using the litter fine. She still walks around and hangs out but it's swollen. I'm thinking she fell off something and fractured it. I can't afford to go to the vet as I just took in another cat with a really bad break in her back leg and the vet bills were not cheap. How could I make a homemade splint?? (and how long should I keep it on?) And should I wait for swelling to go down before splinting?

Sept. 5, 2018

Kitzu's Owner

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Waffles

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Tortie

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1 Year

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Moderate severity

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5 found helpful

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Raw
Raw And Bleeding

My cat Waffles wore a splintfor 5 weeks and had it removed yesterday . I'm a bit worried about his leg. It looks raw and is bleeding a bit. He has been cleaning the leg and paw. Vet had me purchase an antibacterial and antifungal spray. Gave me no antibiotics. Should clear up in two weeks. Am I just overreacting? Don't want anything to happen to my little buddy. (Who thinks he is a dog).

Aug. 25, 2018

Waffles' Owner

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5 Recommendations

It is not unusual for some skin rubbing to occur when wearing a splint, if the wound doesn’t look infected you should just ensure that it stays clean and apply a topical antibiotic ointment to the area. Place a cone on Waffles to prevent any licking and ensure that it is healing, however if there is no improvement or it starts oozing or smelling you should return to your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 25, 2018

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Rosie

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tabby

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2 Years

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Pain From Jumping Down
Mild Leg Pain In Cast

My cat broke her elbow and the vet put a cast on it. She has done ok but jumped down off a chair and she acts like she is hurting again but not sever . Is this normal after almost 2 weeks for it to cause mild pain when jumping down? Also for the past couple days since she has felt better she has been sitting and raising her arm up and down almost like she is excercising it. Any ideas why she might be doing that?

Aug. 19, 2018

Rosie's Owner


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3 Recommendations

Two weeks is not a long period of time when there has been a fracture and it is possible that further injury has been made to the leg; you should think about restricting Rosie’s movement to be on the safe side so that she doesn’t cause any further possible injury. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 19, 2018

Thank you very much. She was doing very well until she started feeling better and moving around. Is there anything otc or all natural that is safe to give her to help the pain and calm her down?

Aug. 19, 2018

Rosie's Owner

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Kira

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Indie

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5 Months

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Serious severity

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Our rescued kitten Kira, injured his left paw 4 days ago. We immediately took him to the vet and on an X-ray it was identified that all 4 of his metacarpals of the left paw are broken. We’ve got him bandaged twice and The vet put his paw in a cast but he managed to rip everything apart even with a collar on. He just gets very agitated when an e-collar / split or cast is put. What can be done in this situation. We have put him in his cat kennel to restrict movement but the cast is off at the moment as he doesn’t allow it. He’s 5 months old. Please advice.

Aug. 14, 2018

Kira's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

If Kira is not cooperating with treatment, you may need to get a mild sedative for him to allow those bones to heal. keeping him confined is a good idea, but if he is removing the splint, they aren't going to heal. The other option is surgical repair of the broken bones. You can discuss whether sedation might help Kira to keep calm enough to let those bones heal.

Aug. 14, 2018

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Dante

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tabby

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7 Years

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Moderate severity

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Limping Around

My 7 year old cat Dante broke his leg (4 metacarpels )in his hind leg. His leg was caught on a drawer hinge. I opted for a cast. This was one week ago. I am trying to keep him contained on one room but he is anxious to get our. meowing and scratching the door. My main concern is follow up X-ray. Vet recommended two week follow up. Xrays are $300! Is it really needed to do X-ray after Teel weeks or can we wait until 5-6 Week mark time?

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Cosmo

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Cat

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1 Year

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

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Limping
Crying
Dragging

My cat just recently broke her hock joint. And she is so miserable, the vet prescribed ibprofen and clindy Drops , with a split to help it heal, poor babe is miserable and is constantly randomly growling?? And I thought ibprofen was bad for cats?

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Chowder

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Domestic long hair

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3 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Broken Front Leg

My cat, Chowder, had a run-in with a dog about a year ago and when his bones didn't fuse with splinting, we had to have his front leg removed. About 2 weeks ago, we came home from work to find Chowder limping badly, not putting weight on the remaining front leg. Back to the vet we went, xrays confirm a fracture. Forgive my anatomy - with the parallel fore-paw bones, one is clear broken and the other was hanging on barely. They think he jumped down from higher ground and just too much pressure caused a break. He's been splinted, medicated and hanging out in an XL dog crate since then. He remains calm, eats, drinks and uses the litter box without incident. Two days after his latest injury, my father passed away in another state and it has been chaos watching my money fly out the window trying to deal with attorneys and travel expenses. I really do not want to see our kitty suffer, but I simply cannot not pay rent or the dozens of other things that have been getting put off... We were struggling before all this happened. The vet wants us to come back and do another round of xrays, sedating & resplinting. Can I get away with putting off the follow up appointment for another paycheck without being a terribly pet parent? We've already come to terms with potentially having a bi-paw'd cat and seriously would carry him or spoon feed him for the remainder of his days if it came to that. I don't think it will, but I need to know if he's at risk for gangrene or whatever happens when you miss a follow up appt when you're supposed to have it.

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Scratchy

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Bombay

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9 Years

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Fair severity

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Fracture
Fracture Pin
Ran Up Steps

Hi. I just got home from the vet with my cat that has two fractures in her forearm. Vet put a pin in and she had to stay five days there. Anyway, she was so excited I guess being home and snuck away from me and ran up about 15 steps. She acts okay I have her confined in the bathroom. Is she going to be okay you think??

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Costa

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tabby

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10 Months

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Pain
Uncomfortable
Yowling
Meowing,

My cat Costa just had a cast put on yesterday for his left hind leg. He was stuck at a point and I went to help him and he bit me two times, I had to go to the ER because of it. He hasn't seemed to calm down and we even got more pain medication and an e-cone for him. In a way he flops around in his cage like Magikarp from pokemon. He has not stood up once and stopped using the restroom. He keeps yowling and freaking out in his cage (a husky cage). We cant pick him up or else he will scratch or attempt to bite. I want to hold him or help him but I am not allowed to touch him again (my mom does now). He just sounds like he is in a bunch of pain. I dont know what to do. He seems like he hurts alot. Please help.

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