Monday, September 15, 2008

Sunday evening panic

Modern surgical techniques make some absolutely remarkable repairs possible, even where the main bones of a limb have been broken in several places so that they effectively hang loose. For really bad cases, the vets will usually implant a "surgical fixator" - effectively a metal scaffolding bonded to the pieces of bone to hold them rigidly in position so that they can grow back together. The result looks fearsome, but seems to completely relieve the pain of the break. In the accompanying photo Tiger Lily demonstrates how unworried she is by the fixator holding her upper forelimb together.

The downside is the length of time needed for bone to grow back between the broken sections. This can take several months, and until the natural join is complete it's essential that the animal doesn't put sudden strain on the leg by jumping or falling and the fixator has to stay in place (it's removed by a second operation once X-rays show natural bone growth has filled in the gaps).

This means the animal has to be closely confined and only exercised under strict supervision and various sorts of cages have to be used, none of which are entirely satisfactory. The large plastic cages sold for indoor rabbit-keeping are easy to clean and free of snags on which the fixator can get hooked up, but they are rather hot in sunny weather. Fibre-glass or plastic indoor kennels and dog crates are preferable in many ways but the bars can be a problem - as one of our fosterers discovered on Sunday when his foster-cat managed to slip his fixator through the cage bars, and panic, turn sideways and get completely wedged. It then required two of us to release him, one to rotate the cat and the other to slide the fixator through the bars. Not entirely my idea of a fun Sunday night.

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