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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 30326
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience.
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How can you tell if your cat has broken her leg or not?

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How can you tell if your cat has sprained her leg or broken it?

The easiest way to differentiate a soft tissue injury such as a sprain or strain from a bony fracture is by examining the leg carefully for swelling. Fractures usually cause profound swelling but sprains and strains may not reveal any swelling at all.

In general, a cat won't place a leg down that has been fractured. Of course, a severe sprain or strain might result in a three-legged cat as well but a cat is likely to begin walking on all four legs within a few days in cases of soft tissue injury; not so with a fracture.

Finally, palpating ("feeling") all the parts of the leg (don't forget the toes!) can be informative. If you can find a painful spot, part Macy's fur and look closely for bite wounds (teeth puncture marks). In my 40+ years of practicing, the great majority of "broken legs" turn out to be painful bite/fight wounds. Let me know what you find, please.

Please respond with further questions and concerns if you wish.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

She fell off a bureau and got her leg caught in a drawer for a second on the way down. She walks on it, and puts pressure on it but limps a little :( She's not the friendliest cat so its been hard for me to feel it and her leg is white compared to her other legs so it already looks a little bigger than the rest. I had a appointment scheduled for her previously and that is in 4 days. Just not sure if I should try to bring her in or if she will be ok if I wait.?

Thank you for the additional info. The fact that she's walking on it is encouraging. If she's lame on a hind leg we have to also worry about a dislocation (luxation) of her hip. Cats will surprisingly often continue to walk with a hip luxation. If a luxation is present it's best not to wait because the earlier a luxated leg is manually replaced (if possible), the better the prognosis for permanent cure.

Please don't get bit or scratched attempting to palpate her. It's best that she be properly restrained by a vet tech while the vet examines her. If palpating reveals nothing remarkable, the tincture of time may suffice. Her vet might inject her with a pain-relieving nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as robenacoxib. If the vet detects swelling suggestive of fracture or an instability in her hip or elsewhere, X-rays will be suggested in order to clarify just what's ailing Macy.

Please let me know which leg is affected and if you have any further questions or concerns.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

It is her back leg. But I did get to feel her hip and she didn't seem like it bothered her too much. My vet isn't open until Monday and the only other place to bring her in my area hasn't had the best reviews. So I am not exactly comfortable taking her there. But I by no means want to neglect her in any way. I am just not sure what to do.

If she didn't object to your feeling her hip (did you also rotate her leg in the hip socket?), she probably didn't luxate the hip. I'm going to recommend that you wait until Monday so you can see her regular vet. She may normalize by then and you won't have to take her in at all.

I'm going to check back with you in a couple of days for an update but feel free to return to our conversation.

Dr. Michael Salkin and other Cat Veterinary Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I haven't tried rotating it yet but I will. Thank you so much for all your help.

Its my pleasure. May I have an update on Macy, please?

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

She's been great, no limping, no touchiness, nothing :) I am still going to have my Vet check it out just to be safe. But I'm feeling a lot better about it. Thank you for all of your help!

That's what I like to hear!