A significant amount of work that is done at Clutha Vets involves putting broken bones back together again. To do this it is necessary for the Vet to become first a radiographer and then an orthopaedic surgeon!


Almost all fractures occur as a traumatic event – most commonly involving a vehicle, but it is not unusual for us to see pups that have jumped further than they should or working dogs that have been on the receiving end of a large hoof. Cats usually arrive home and it’s all guesswork as to what they have met up with!


Often the animal is in shock and our first priority is to provide them with shock therapy and pain relief. An amazing fact in dealing with animals is that they do not always show extreme pain; dogs will walk into the practice on 3 legs, with the injured one dangling at very odd angles, leading people to assume it isn’t painful. Cats are frequently thought to be fine as they are purring – in obviously painful situations it is better to think of this as being their equivalent of groaning.


Once the animal is treated for the pain and shock, it is necessary to get good x-rays of the injury – this is for 2 reasons; firstly it allows us to assess the injury and the best method of repair, and secondly it allows us to give the owner an accurate idea of how much it will cost to repair.


Three methods of repair are available at Clutha Vets – casting, pinning and plating; which method is used depends on the fracture and its location. Occasionally simply confining the animal to prevent them moving around too much can heal the fracture; this is commonly used for pelvic fractures in cats – the veterinary equivalent of bed rest!


Only very simple and non-displaced fractures below the knee or the elbow are suitable to cast, and even then it is not often the best method.


Pinning can be used in simple fractures where the animal is small enough for us to fit a pin – it is essential that the pin fills the cavity of the bone, otherwise the fracture may move and stop healing from occurring. Pins nearly always require removal once the callous has formed and the bone is healing well.


Plating is the preferred method for many fractures – if there are fragments present, it is a large animal or there is involvement of a joint, are all situations where plating is best.


Prevention of fractures is our preferred treatment! A considerable number of fractures that we see could have been prevented with some foresight (a much rarer beast than hindsight!).