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Angel & Her Kittens

AngelWhen I first saw her, Angel wasn't much more than six or seven months old. Her owner found her as a stray kitten, kept her, but didn't bother to have her spayed let alone any shots. When Angel had kittens, it was obvious they weren't normal. As you can see in the photos below, their front legs are bent at an odd angle and practically useless. Now the owner didn't want to be bothered with Angel at all or her deformed kittens. If nobody would take them, the owner threatened to dump them somewhere in the country. A fine example of irresponsible pet ownership, don't you think?

I took them and made an appointment with my vet immediately. Angel tested negative for feline leukemia and had her first set of shots. As soon as her kittens were weaned, she finished her vaccinations and was spayed. After several months in our care, Angel was adopted.

Unfortunately, x-rays revealed the kittens were born without a radius bone in their front legs. It is a genetic defect known as Radial Agenesis. Since the radius is a weight bearing bone, they were unable to use their front legs. Chase & Serena  Due to the extensive medical care they required, these two kittens which I named Chase and Serena found their forever home with our family.

My vet, Dr. Kelley Young consulted with several veterinary orthopedic surgeons to get their opinion on her proposed treatment which would be to put walking casts or splints on their front legs to stabilize them and to get the kittens accustomed to walking in an upright condition. The kittens legs would remain stabilized until they reach about six or seven months of age. At that time another series of x-rays could be done to determine if bone grafts could be done and pins put in place enabling them to walk almost normally.

In the photograph above, the male kitten, Chase is on the right and the female, Serena on the left. My vet is a bit concerned by the flattened ribcage of the male kitten. As he grows, his chest needs to expand to allow for his heart and lungs to develop properly. We did gentle chest massage on him daily to encourage his ribcage to grow in a more rounded shape. His flattened ribcage isn't really noticeable in these photos. However, it's easy to see the condition of their front legs.

vet tech creating splints

On July 21, 2003 both kittens received their first set of leg splints. Creating them was just a bit of a challenge for Dr. Young. The splints needed to hold their legs straight and give them the support they needed to walk. Since the splints would need to be replaced as the kittens grew, they also needed to be easy to remove. In the photograph on the left a technician has cut the ends off of an appropriately sized plastic syringe and is filing the edges smooth. The ends of these modified syringes were padded then slid onto the legs and held in place with vet wrap. As the kittens grew, larger syringes were modified and used. I thought it was an ingenious idea.  The kittens were walking and playing the same day their legs were set in splints. The splints extend from their elbows to their feet. With the pads of their toes exposed, they have excellent traction even on tile flooring. It was more difficult to get a good photo because they were always on the move!

Chase and Serena wearing their splintsOver the next several months both kittens were closely monitored by our vet and had their splints replaced as they continued to grow. By September, another set of x-rays revealed that Chase had enough of a radius bone in his left leg to allow him to use it normally. Unfortunately, the same x-rays also showed that he was not only missing a radius in his right leg but several wrist bones as well. Serena was also missing several wrist bones as well as a radius in both front legs. So surgery is not an option now.  Although both of Serena's front legs and Chase's front right leg is a little crooked, both are getting around great without splints. Apparently, wearing splints for all those months actually made their front legs stronger and much straighter.