When Geraldine’s two kittens, Sooty and Snowy, were young, she made sure that she signed them both up for pet insurance. Her previous cat, Domino, had died of kidney failure at the age of thirteen, and during his illness, Geraldine had learned that vets’ bills could be expensive. She decided that in future she’d pay out the small monthly amount for pet insurance, so that if there was an accident or illness, her new cats would be able to have the best possible veterinary care without putting a strain on the family budget.
Snowy and Sooty grew up as the best of friends. They did everything together – from sleeping in the same basket to playing around the home to hunting in the garden. Geraldine has two palm trees at the front of the house, and the two cats used to play a game where each of them dashed up a tree as fast as possible. When Geraldine came home, she would find one cat sitting at the top of each tree, as if they were keeping a lookout for her.
Snowy has had to stop climbing trees for the past few months: he’s recovering from a nasty accident affecting his left hind leg. It happened on a Sunday afternoon. Geraldine knows her cats very well – they are creatures of habit. When she noticed Sooty moping about the house alone, with no sign of Snowy, she knew that something must be amiss. She went looking for him, and it didn’t take long to find him. He was skulking beneath one of the cars in the driveway, and he refused to come out when Geraldine called him. She eventually had to grab him with both hands and pull him out from under the car, and that’s when it was obvious that he’d been hurt. His left hind leg was dangling at an unnatural angle, and there was a nasty, bleeding wound.
Geraldine took him to the emergency veterinary service at once, and he was admitted to the hospital. He was given sedation and pain relief, and a series of x-pictures were taken. The precise nature of his injuries was soon explained to Geraldine. Snowy was not in any danger – he had no life-threatening injuries – but the injury to his leg was very serious. The upper leg bone – the femur – had a fracture of the worst possible type. The broken bone was classified as a “compound, comminuted fracture”. In layman’s terms, “compound” means that there is an open wound overlying the broken bone, exposing the fracture site to the environment, with the associated high risk of contamination and bacterial infection. “Comminuted” means that the leg bone was not just broken in two: it was in smithereens. It was as if someone had smashed the bone with a hammer – there were multiple small pieces of broken bone.
When Geraldine heard this, she realised what must have happened. She lives in the countryside, and there are horses in the field beside her house. She had often seen Snowy interacting with the horses, and she had worried about his behaviour. He went right up to the horses, showing no fear of them at all. He ran beside them, and even darted between their feet. One of the horses must have been given a fright when he did this, lashing with one of their back legs. It was the only way that Snowy could have received a single blow of such force.
The emergency clinic patched Snowy up as best they could, wrapping his damaged leg in a supportive dressing and giving him plenty of pain relief. He was transferred to our clinic the following morning, and a treatment plan to repair his leg was put into place. At first, we were concerned that he might lose his leg. There was so much damage to the muscles and blood vessels, as well as to the bones. He underwent an operation lasting several hours. A complicated assembly of stainless steel pins was used to line up the broken pieces of bone into a shape that was similar to the bone before it had been smashed to pieces. The pins were held in place by more metal work that surrounded his leg like a metal cage. By the time the operation was finished, we were satisfied that he could make a good recovery, but it was going to take a long time.
Snowy stayed in our vet clinic for three days initially, and for the past six weeks, he has been confined to one room at home. He lives in the porch, where he has been joined by Sooty to keep him company. He has been on many return visits to our clinic, for wound dressings and for more x-rays, and he has made good progress. We hope to be able to remove the metal apparatus in two weeks, and he should soon be able to venture out into the garden again.
It hasn’t been cheap to fix Snowy’s broken leg, with the bill heading for two thousand euro, but thanks to the pet insurance, Geraldine will only have to cover the €75 excess, with the rest being paid by the insurance company. Geraldine has simple advice for anyone thinking about New Years Resolutions at this time of year: make sure you get your pet insured. You just never know when you’ll need it.
- Cats that allowed outdoors are prone to accidents
- New veterinary techniques mean that even very serious injuries can now be repaired
- Pet insurance is the best way of making sure that veterinary bills can be paid without upsetting the family budget