We asked veterinarians to share their biggest concerns about casts and splints. The top three stood out from the rest: The risk of complications (57%), the time-consuming nature of casting (54%), and inconvenience (51%). In this article, our experts advise how vets can make casts safer, more comfortable, and less stressful for their patients and themselves.
Casts are an old invention. Doctors in Ancient Egypt used natural materials like bamboo to treat broken limbs. The basic idea is simple: Immobilize the fracture with something sturdy. Veterinarians know it's not always easy to put this simple idea to practice.
Our survey results show casts cause anxiety for many veterinarians. Some of the other concerns listed by participants in addition to the top three were:
- Casts not staying in place (29%)
- Casting is difficult (26%)
- Previous bad experiences (20%)
- Lack of knowledge (17%)
Despite the long list of issues, our experts believe vets have what it takes to change veterinary casting for the better. Here's their advice on how to start with the top three:
Concern 1: Veterinary casting causes complications
Cast-related complications are by far the biggest concern to veterinarians – and for good reason. The famous study by Meeson et al. (2011) confirmed what many vets already knew: Casts cause complications.
“The main issue we see is cast sores and skin infections, which lead to pain and more discomfort for the pet leading to chewing or licking, then more sores," commented one veterinarian.
The solution: While there are no quick fixes for cast complications, the correct cast material and fit are crucial to minimize injuries like pressure sores. Our experts with decades of casting experience in veterinary and human medicine suggest making sure the cast fits perfectly from the first application to each re-application.
“Material choice plays a crucial role in achieving the best possible fit for each application. You should assess each case carefully and make your material choice accordingly”, says Dr. Martin Kaufmann, OrthoPets founder, and Dassiet VET COO.
Concern 2: Applying casts is time-consuming
Life at the clinic can get hectic. Busy days combined with time-consuming fracture cases can be a recipe for a stressful shift: X-rays need to be taken, anesthesia administered, and materials prepared and applied. Surgery is often involved, which adds to the time and resources required. And it doesn’t end there – casts often require frequent follow-up visits. Traveling to and from the clinic can take its toll on pets, pet parents, and veterinarians.
"I utilize a lot of bandaging and casting, but it wears on owners quickly from a time and financial standpoint when we have to do weekly in-clinic cast changes for long periods," comments another veterinarian who took part in our survey.
Solution: Many cast materials make it necessary to remove the whole device each time the pet comes for a follow-up visit. Because of this, casts need to be re-made as often as once a week to check the skin, take x-rays, or for physical therapy.
“A radiolucent material would solve many of these issues. The good news is: It exists! The UPETS splint does not need to be taken off for x-rays. However, it can easily be taken off and put back on when needed”, says Josh Luebbers, who has over a decade of experience working with OrthoPets and Dassiet product development.
Read more about the science behind UPETS
Concern 3: Casting is inconvenient
They cause complications, they are time-consuming to apply, they take up time in the busy schedule of a veterinary clinic, and get in the way of playing fetch. In short, casts and splints are inconvenient. Answers to our survey show that pets, pet parents, and veterinarians are not the only ones affected by their inconvenience.
"I am a physical therapist. We are training in doing bandaging and splints, but it is time-consuming with rehab appointments to take them on and off. Often, we are unable to do any modalities to limbs that are in bandages until they come off,” comments one responder.
Solution: The best way to make casts more convenient is to opt for a modern material and design, our experts say. The right material and fit will help curb complications, which shortens healing times. Efficient material use will help drive treatment costs down – UPETS can be re-applied and adjusted during treatment instead of making a new cast. It's easy to take on and put back on for physical therapy or checking the skin, for example.
"Movement is life, for animals and humans. Casts and splints are there to restrict that movement – for a time. However, they should be designed and applied to allow the patient, human or animal, to get back on their feet as fast as possible. This will also help with the perceived inconvenience of casts”, says Dr. Kaufmann.
Read more: Dr. Martin Kaufmann explains why your material choice is crucial in veterinary casting and splinting