OH NO! Snap!
Why do our pets fall out of trees, get kicked by horses, fall out of utes, and get hit by cars?
These things happen all too often just by accident but what can be done when injuries like these occur?
When I was much younger I enjoyed breeding Australian finches and King Quail (I can even whistle their call!) and one day a new male quail that I brought home broke it’s leg in the box during travel (they can’t fly really but they can be flighty!). The leg was hanging on by skin and tendons only so I set the bones with a matchstick and some electrical tape and it healed perfectly! Then I went to vet school several years later and found out just how lucky I had been! More often than not this wouldn’t have gone so well.
One summer holidays as a vet student I was on placement in rural Victoria when into the clinic came a cat with a broken leg. Surgery was declined and she was put in a cast with a comment from the vet “well as long as a cat’s bones are in the same room together, they will heal”. I diligently wrote this down in my little vet-student notebook. Two months later I was at the same clinic and the same cat presented, this time with a complete non-union of her fractured leg (the bones had not healed at all) and just to get her comfortable the poor little cat had to have her leg amputated!
Ever since then I have had a passion for fixing broken bones. I feel the pain for our little friends when they suffer these injuries but also feel the deep concern and anxiety that it creates for owners, and I love being part of the solution. Being able to get them comfortable again and then fixing the fracture, to later see them running and playing again is so immensely rewarding.
It takes a combination of good nursing, attentive anaesthetic monitoring, good knowledge of anatomy and physiology, understanding of function, technical ability, willingness to be creative, often the use of power tools (kind of like fixing things in the shed but with much greater finesse!), and a whole lot of post-op care and rehabilitation. However it is all worth it to see those wagging tails come back in with smiling owners when only weeks ago everyone was wondering whether their little friend would even survive or ever be able to play again!
Here at Gawler Animal Hospital, we are fortunate to now have a number of vets who are particularly interested and adept at treating these orthopaedic cases. Along with this, we have excellent x-ray facilities, state of the art orthopaedic equipment (did I mention the power tools?!), and lovely surgical suites for performing the surgery. To top this off we have a great bunch of hospital nurses who ensure a pet’s stay with us is as comfortable as possible, with plenty of pain relief as required and the team have created some great “How to” videos to help assist with recovery and rehabilitation when pets get back home.
Since we do these complicated surgeries quite often, we are sometime sent the more difficult fractures from other vet practices around the State and we are always happy to help out. A lot of very precise planning can be involved but I promise we don’t just try our luck with a bit of electrical tape and matchsticks!
Hopefully your pet will never need to have a fractured bone repaired, but just in case they do, we hope you find it is nice to know we are here if they need us. And since it usually involves a stay in hospital of a few days, they are guaranteed to get lots of extra cuddles!
Dr Steve Crouch