muscle and bone (musculoskeletal system)



Musculoskeletal problems not related to injury are rare in cats.

Diseases seen frequently in dogs such as hip dysplasia and patellar luxation (kneecap dislocation), which have a hereditary predisposition, are almost never seen in cats except for individuals from certain purebred bloodlines. Therefore you as a cat owner have little in the way of bony or muscular problems to consider when choosing a cat. Your problems with musculoskeletal disease will most likely arise following trauma to your animal.

Many musculoskeletal injuries can be difficult to diagnose, even by an experienced veterinarian. Proper diagnosis often requires the use of × rays as well as a thorough physical examination. It may be impossible to distinguish among fractures, dislocations, and sprains without the aid of × rays. In general, however, it should not be too difficult to distinguish the presence of a fracture or dislocation from the presence of a sprain, strain, or bruise.

Keep in mind that, although musculoskeletal injuries often cause marked signs, they themselves are not usually emergencies. Review the musculoskeletal section, then read this section thoroughly and become familiar with your cat’s normal posture and movement in order to prepare yourself to recognize any injury to your cat’s muscles and/or bones.

When actual injury occurs, keep calm and proceed with an examination in a thorough and deliberate manner. First try to localize the site of the injury. To accomplish this stand back and look at your cat as a whole. Try to determine the area (or areas) causing the change in posture or gait. If legs are involved, which are they? Which seem to hurt, look distorted, or are being “protected” by the cat? Swelling is often fairly well confined to the injured area but is sometimes extensive.

The posture of an affected leg may be fairly normal above but not below the affected area. Once you have a general idea of the location of the problem examine each part of the limb, including each joint, gently and carefully. All legs should be examined thoroughly, but you will probably want to go over the most obviously damaged one first. Review how to perform a leg examination in the Anatomy section of this book if you feel unsure about it, and remember that comparing an injured leg to its (probably) uninjured mate can be very helpful.