Cat Pelvis Operation – Vet Orthopaedics

Pelvis_surgery

Joe the TV vet performs difficult pelvis surgery on a cat.

Cats lead dangerous lives, dodging traffic, fighting over territory and being chased by dogs, so it is not surprising that we vets spend a reasonable proportion of our working lives patching up the results of their adventures. Whether it’s repairing serious damage caused by road traffic accidents, or patching up less severe injuries from bite wounds, cats that have been in the wars certainly keep us vets busy everyday of the week.

Most of the time these injuries are not too severe – cat bites, and bruises and strains from over-energetic leaping and climbing usually heal well and require nothing much more than antibiotics and painkillers to help the cat recover. Sometimes, however, cats are less fortunate and that is when things get much more serious and the outcomes can be less positive. Road traffic accidents are by far and away the main cause of these more serious injuries, and repairing the damage that a tonne of car can do to 5 kilos of fragile cat can be a very involved and difficult process.

Thankfully there are now many highly specialised vets who can offer amazingly hi-tech operations and treatments that can quite literally put broken cats back together. A friend of mine from university, Toby Gemmill, is now an eminent orthopaedic surgeon in Birmingham and I truly believe that provided the pet’s head and chest are in one piece, there’s not much he couldn’t put back together successfully. Using all manner of techniques, including external fixators (metal frames that hold shattered legs back together from the outside rather than the inside), bone grafts and much more, vets like Toby can work wonders on even the most severely injured animals.

There is a problem though, and that’s the age-old issue of money. The state-of-the-art treatments that Toby and other orthopaedic vets carry out are understandably expensive with costs often reaching many thousands of pounds. This puts them out of the reach of many pet owners, unless of course they have pet insurance, leaving them faced with some very difficult decisions – should they try to beg, borrow or steal the money required for a potentially life-saving operation? Or should they simply call it a day and opt to have their pet put to sleep? These are terrible decisions to have to make, and it is one of the reasons why vets like myself, who are general practitioners rather than specialists, end up tackling complex operations that are well outside our comfort zone.

Take Portia the cat underneath the drapes in this picture for example. She was hit by a car and suffered severe injuries to her pelvis and back legs, and required a major orthopaedic operation if she was going to have any chance of surviving. However, her owner had no pet insurance and could not afford to consider visiting a specialist – but she was desperate to try and save her beloved cat, so I offered to try my best and have a go myself.

The operation Portia required was something I have attempted before, but it really is not something I’m that comfortable with, so it was a very long and stressful operation. The end result was pretty good – definitely not as good as if Toby had done the procedure, but a whole lot better than nothing and I think there’s every chance that she will pull through as a result. In fact it’s me that I’m more worried about – I need a stiff drink and a lie down to recover from the stress!

Joe Inglis BVSc MRCVS is the vet for the One Show, This Morning and BBC Breakfast. He runs his own line of natural pet food called Pet’s Kitchen

  • Joanna Midgley says:

    Hello,
    I have just read our blog regarding pelvic surgery on cats. One of our cats has been run over, his pelvis is fractured ad our vet believes he may have suffered nerve damage because although he passed urine and faeces when he was first admitted he has had to be helped for the last few days. Are you able to provide contact details for Toby Gemmill who you say is an orthopaedic surgeon as he may be able to help? Many thanks

  • Susie says:

    Hi Joanna,

    Toby Gemmill works from Willows vet practice their number is 0121 712 7070 hope your cat is doing OK.

  • N Hughes says:

    Hi
    My 5 year old cat was hit by a car a couple months ago. He suffered a fractured pelvis and dislocated hip. After 6 weeks cage rest and one failed attempt to pop the hip back, my vet recommended that he have the ball of the femur removed, which he said would enable Minty to have a pain free normal life. Unfortunately since the operation, Minty has been constantly chewing his lame leg and foot. I took him back last week and after more x-rays, have now been told that the pelvis is more misaligned than first thought, and the top of the femur is touching it, causing pain. I’ve also been told that he now has nerve damage which is making him nag the leg, but my vet said this is a result of the pelvic fracture and not the surgery. The have recommended that the leg be amputated.
    Should I seek a second opinion, as I don’t understand why the nerve damage didn’t show itself in the 6 weeks following the accident prior to surgery. I really don’t want him to have the leg removed if there is another option.

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