Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Healthy Cats

Font Size
A
A
A

Weakness and Paralysis in Cats

Injuries and diseases of the spinal cord produce a variety of neurological signs. Following injury, there may be neck or back pain; weakness or paralysis of one or more legs; a stumbling, uncoordinated gait; loss of pain perception in the limbs; and urinary or fecal incontinence.

Other conditions producing limb weakness or paralysis that may be mistaken for a spinal cord problem are arterial thromboembolism, nerve injury, and broken bones. Arterial thromboembolism can be distinguished by absent or reduced pulses in the groin.

Recommended Related to Cats

Pancreatitis in Cats

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, which often primarily affects the exocrine or digestive enzymes. It can be acute or chronic, with the chronic form being more common in cats. Pancreatitis can have many causes, including trauma, parasites, infection, and drug reactions. However, more than 90 percent of all pancreatitis cases in the cat have no identifiable cause. Siamese cats may have a genetic predisposition. Unlike dogs, cats with pancreatitis do not usually show vomiting...

Read the Pancreatitis in Cats article > >

A pelvic fracture is frequently mistaken for a broken back. In both cases, the cat is unable to use her back legs and will show pain when handled in the area of the injury. An X-ray may be needed to distinguish the two conditions. It is important to ascertain that the urinary bladder hasn’t ruptured. It might appear that the outlook is poor, even though cats with a broken pelvis usually recover completely.

Acute abdominal pain (caused by peritonitis, lower urinary tract disorder, or a kidney or liver infection) produces a peculiar hunched appearance that can be mistaken for a spinal cord problem. The acute abdomen will show signs of pain when pressure is applied to the abdominal wall.

Spinal Cord Injuries

Traumatic spinal cord injuries are usually caused by car accidents, falls, and abuse. A cat can get caught in the blades of an automobile fan when the car is started, because outdoor cats frequently will huddle up next to a warm car radiator in cold weather.

A common injury occurs when a car runs over a cat’s tail, pulling apart the sacral-lumbar or coccygeal vertebrae and stretching the nerves that go to the bladder, rectum, and tail. The signs are paralysis of the tail (which hangs loosely like a rope) and urinary or fecal incontinence. The anal sphincter is completely relaxed. The bladder is paralyzed and greatly overdistended. If the condition is not recognized and treated shortly after the accident, bladder paralysis remains even though nerve function is restored. As a result, any cat with a limp tail must be seen by a veterinarian and X-rayed for sacral injury. Many of these cats will need to be hospitalized so the bladder can be manually emptied and treatment can be started to attempt to heal the nerves controlling urination and defecation.

Protect the cat’s spine. Use a blanket or towel to lift her onto a flat surface, such a board, before transporting.

Treatment: All spinal cord injuries require immediate veterinary attention. A cat with spinal cord trauma may also have other life-threatening injuries that take precedence. All cats who are unconscious or unable to stand should be considered to have spinal cord injury and must be handled with great care to protect the spine.

WebMD Veterinary Reference from "Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook"

Today on WebMD

kitten with onions
Slideshow
Night stalking cat
Slideshow
 
Young woman holding Papillon
Slideshow
Kitten playing
Quiz
 
cat on couch
Slideshow
Kitten using litter box
Quiz
 
sleeping kitten
Slideshow
sad kitten looking at milk glass
Slideshow
 
Cat looking at fish
Slideshow
muddy dog on white sofa
Quiz
 
Maine Coon cat breed
Article
Pets: Behavior Problems in Cats
Slideshow