This is a reproduction of a topic that appeared on an online Serval discussion group. I have posted it here because it may be useful to other owners. Be advised that none of the parties quoted are veterinarians, and this article should not be construed as veterinary advice.
First Post: From owner of serval
My 3 year old boy just got home from a very bad day at the doctor.
yesterday he fell of the dresser, and limped for an hour or so. he
was fine after that. I took him in anyway, and x rayed him. The
doctor thinks he may have tore his cruciate. She also discovered
that the joint to the tibia on both legs have fused together, most
likeley since he was a kitten ( he has always been cow hocked)
She says that he can either have the surgery, and maybe have full
use of his leg and limited arthritis in the future, or not have
surgery, and possible get arthritis pretty bad in that knee. I am
torn, because for one, he is not showing any signs of pain, and he
isnt shy about showing it usually. But I dont want him hurt in the
future. Doese anyone have any advice, or been through this type of
thing before? I know he will be very bad at a strange vet (Ohio
State) He is so bad now at the vet where I work, you know how they
are in a strange environment!
Thanks to anyone with experience!
Tiffany and Marley
Second Post: From experienced serval owner Patrick Babin
While I don't know of anyone who has had this surgery done on a serval, I know several who have had this done on hybrids. I would ask the vet who advised you on this surgery a few questions. What is the long term success rate for this surgery on cats? Are they willing to give you the names of the last 5 clients who have had this surgery done on a cat? Have they have ever performed this on a serval and, if so, was the owner able to keep the serval from jumping, climbing, playing rough, standing on it's hind legs, etc. for the 8 weeks required for the healing to take place?
If the serval tears the cruciate ligament again during the healing process, will the serval be more disabled than he would be if no surgery were done? Is there any reason (such as greater damage occurring) not to wait and see if the serval recovers completely on his own before doing the surgery? The people who I know who had this surgery on hybrids said they were unable to keep the cats from re-tearing the cruciate ligament, after which, they just let the cats heal on its own without subjecting the cats to further surgery.
Do you think you would be able to keep your serval restrained for the 8 weeks of healing? If you keep the serval isolated in a room with absolutely nothing in the room but food, water and a litterbox, you may have a chance of the surgery healing properly. Otherwise, I would say that you are just donating $1500-$2000 to the veterinary surgeon and putting you and your serval through undue stress.
As far as the "cow-hocked", I don't really know what you mean by that. But if you are referring to the fact that the servals rear toes point outward and his heals point inward, this is natural for servals as it is an adaptation for jumping to catch prey as opposed to other cats which chase down their prey by running.
Third Post: From experienced serval owner and former breeder Sara Comstock
I have the same concerns. I would question this vet very extensively, this could damage the serval emotionally and physcially, as to what this vet is proposing.
Legs: Very long and slender yet strong. Back legs are slightly longer than the front legs, and due to this extreme length, may now and then give a FALSE appearance of being cow-hocked.
Legs: Very long and slender yet strong. Back legs are slightly longer than the front legs, and due to this extreme length, may now and then give a false appearance of being cowhocked.
Patrick, please evaluate the following links I found. Need your opinion
"Cow-hocked legs - The hind hocks turn inward and cause the feet to point outwards rather than straight forward."
Fourth Post: Patrick Babin, additional comments
You are right about the psychological effect on the serval. I have an "unfriendly" serval that I adopted at 5 years old. I waited 6 months until he was starting to bond with me to bring him to the vet to get bloodwork done. He had a very bad experience at the vets and it took him over a year to get him to the point where I could touch him again and almost a year and a half before he would sit in my lap.
I'm having trouble opening the links. It may be my computer because I have been having connection problems.
Servals have real legs that are different from other felines because of their adaptation to jumping as a means of hunting. They all have legs that appear "cow-hocked" by the standards of other felines. The difference is that the "knee" of the serval is not turned outward as in "cow-hocked" rear legs, while the toes will point slightly outward and the heals will point slightly inward. This gives them an advantage in jumping high and far but a slight disadvantage in running. It is somewhat similar to a ballet dancer's foot position where the dancer intentionally points toe outward.