Retrospective Study: Cause and clinical characteristics of rib fractures in cats: 33 cases (2000–2009)


  • The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to
Dr. Elizabeth Rozanski, Department of Clinical Sciences, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, 200 Westboro Rd, North Grafton, MA 01536, USA. Email: Submitted October 21, 2009; Accepted May 27, 2010.


Objective – To characterize the clinical features and population differences among cats sustaining traumatic and nontraumatic rib fractures.

Design – Retrospective clinical study.

Setting – University small animal hospital.

Animals – Thirty-three cats with radiographic evidence of rib fractures.

Interventions – None.

Measurements and Main Results – Cats with rib fractures were identified by performing a computer search of the radiology database. Thirty-three cats that sustained rib fractures were identified between January 2000 and September 2009. Seventeen cats had fractures due to trauma and 16 were deemed to occur from nontraumatic causes. A Mann-Whitney rank-sum test revealed statistically significant differences in the median ages between the 2 groups. Older cats were more likely to sustain rib fractures as a result of a presumed nontraumatic causes. A Chi-square analysis showed that nontraumatic fractures occurred significantly more often in the midbody region and involved the 9th–13th ribs. The majority of cats with presumed nontraumatic rib fracture had respiratory disease; the remaining cats had chronic renal disease or neoplasia. Cats with traumatic rib fractures had external signs of trauma.

Conclusion – Rib fractures in cats may be clearly associated with trauma, or may be an incidental finding in cats with comorbidities. Cats with diseases that cause prolonged respiratory effort or coughing, metabolic diseases, or certain neoplasms, are at increased risk of spontaneous nontraumatic rib fractures.