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While most cats do land on their feet, every once in a while mishaps happen. This adorable kitty was less than one year old when he fell out of a tree, fracturing the top of his femur. Complications from this fracture led to Rafa having a surgical procedure known as an FHO (Femoral Head Osteotomy), in which the top, or in Rafa’s case the broken part of the femur is cut off and the surrounding muscles and connective tissues take over to support the hip joint. After the trauma of fracturing his hind leg, Rafa was very reluctant to bear any weight on it. It was also suspected that he had some nerve damage, causing Rafa to drag his leg behind him while walking.

When Rafa first came to HydroPaws, he had a significant amount of atrophy in his hind leg from being unable to bear weight on it for almost a month. Karen quickly worked up a treatment plan to help re-teach Rafa to walk on all four legs. We tried to utilize the underwater treadmill to help with strengthening and gait training, but after multiple unsuccessful attempts, we determined that Rafa was not going to enjoy the underwater treadmill. So, we focused on passive modalities and land-based therapeutic exercises. At each treatment, Rafa received cold laser therapy to his left hip in order to help facilitate healing, and reduce pain and inflammation.  He also received electric muscle stimulation to his left hamstrings and quadriceps to help prevent disuse atrophy and facilitate neuromuscular re-education. For his therapeutic exercises, Karen fashioned a Dorsi-Flexion Assistance splint from vetwrap, which held Rafa’s left hind limb in the correct position in order for him to bear weight. Karen also would place an irritant under Rafa’s right hind paw to facilitate more weight bearing on his left hind leg.

The combination of these techniques allowed for Rafa to gain strength and learn to use his left hind limb while walking. Rafa quickly learned to walk through a ladder, balance on a BOSU ball, and would even balance on three legs on a BOSU ball. After over two months of exercise, Rafa progressed to the point where he was able to correctly place his left hind limb and bear weight without the use of a splint! Rafa has now regained his playful personality and is able to do all of his favorite things, including climbing and catching mice!