1. Definition of Cat Paralysis
Paralysis in cats, whether partial or temporary, is always a sign of an underlying condition or injury. This condition can lead to severe disability or even death if not treated in a timely manner.
If a cat becomes paralyzed in its hind legs and can no longer walk normally, it is important to learn how to live with and care for a paralyzed cat. While it is not easy, the following tips can help you care for them better.
2. What is Cat Paralysis?
The cat’s ability to move and perform daily activities depends on the coordination of the brain, spinal cord, nerves, and muscles. The spine itself consists of a set of 24 bones called vertebrae, which are separated by small cushions called discs.
The vertebrae and discs together protect the spine from injury. Injuries to the vertebrae or discs can create openings for the nerves within the spinal cord, causing additional damage to the nerve pathways.
When a cat becomes paralyzed, it is usually due to a disruption in communication between the spinal cord and the brain. In some cases, a cat may be paralyzed in both hind legs or other parts of the body (complete paralysis). However, in other cases, there may still be some communication between the brain and spinal cord, and the cat will only be weak or have difficulty moving its legs (partial paralysis).
3. Common Signs of Cat Paralysis
The signs of cat paralysis can vary from vague to obvious, depending on the underlying cause of the condition. The signs can occur suddenly (acute paralysis) or over a long period of time. Signs to watch out for include:
- Inability to use or move parts of the body, including the neck, head, tongue, legs, back, and tail.
- Abnormal gait or stumbling.
- Inability to move all four limbs (paraplegia).
- Paralysis of the hind legs (paraplegia).
- Walking on the front legs while dragging the hind legs.
- Possible pain in the neck, spine, or legs.
- Inability to urinate, which may be a sign of other conditions such as urinary tract infection in cats.
- Inability to control urination, which may result in dribbling.
- Inability to control bowel movements.
4. Causes of Cat Paralysis
The causes of cat paralysis can include:
- Infections such as cryptococcus or toxoplasmosis.
- Injuries (e.g., accidents).
- Infections in the bone or tissue near the spine.
- Slipped discs compressing or injuring nearby nerves (can occur when a cat jumps from a height).
- Inflammation of the muscles surrounding the spine, causing pressure on nearby nerves.
- Paralysis caused by fleas biting.
- Tumors in the spine or brain putting pressure on nerves.
- Spinal or vertebral deformities.
- Botulism poisoning.
- Vertebral artery occlusion, inhibiting proper blood flow to the affected limb.
- Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) causing inflammation in cats.
5. What to Do When a Cat Becomes Paralyzed Suddenly
When you discover that your cat has become paralyzed from the waist down (or if any part of its body is paralyzed), take it to the veterinarian immediately. Even if the cat appears to be in pain, avoid picking it up. Instead, transport the cat as carefully as possible to avoid causing any additional harm.
Place the cat on a stable surface (such as a large book or a flat, stiff piece of cardboard) for transportation to the veterinary clinic. If possible, have a second person assist in holding the cat during the journey. Make every effort to keep the cat calm and soothe them.
6. Diagnosing Paralysis in Cats
- To diagnose paralysis in cats, your veterinarian will need a thorough medical history of your cat’s health. It is especially important to note any injuries, falls, or other significant events that may have affected your cat’s spinal cord.
- It is important to record the approximate time of onset of symptoms, whether the paralysis occurred gradually or all at once, and whether there have been any changes in the severity of the symptoms over time.
- Your veterinarian will pay attention to your cat’s ability to move its legs and how it responds to reflex tests. They will also test the sensation of pain in all four limbs of your cat, examine their head, spine, and legs for signs of pain and alertness.
- Basic diagnostic tests such as blood and urine tests will help your veterinarian determine if your cat has an infection, caused by bacteria, viruses, or toxins, that affects the nerves or spinal cord. Additionally, your veterinarian may obtain a sample of cerebrospinal fluid if infection is suspected.
- X-rays of your cat’s spine can show evidence of infection or displacement of vertebrae or discs pressing on the spinal cord. Other conditions that may disrupt nerve pathways may be apparent on x-rays, such as tumors, obstructions, or inflamed nerves.
- In some cases, your veterinarian may request a specialized type of x-ray called a myelogram. This procedure uses the injection of a contrast dye (dye) into the spine, followed by x-ray imaging, to allow the veterinarian to see the spinal cord and vertebrae in more detail.
- In some cases, your veterinarian may need to take fluid samples from around your cat’s spine for analysis or sample muscle or nerve fibers for biopsy. These analyses can determine the presence of infection in the brain or spinal cord.
7. Treating Paralyzed Cats
- The prognosis for a paralyzed cat depends on the severity and underlying cause of the paralysis. It is essential to accurately determine the location of the injury.
- Treatment for a paralyzed cat with paralyzed hind legs, front legs, or the entire body depends on the underlying cause of the condition. If infection is suspected, the cat will be treated with antibiotics. Some nerve injuries can resolve within a few weeks or months. However, when the nerves are completely severed, surgical reattachment may be necessary for regeneration.
- Use antitoxin to counteract the nerve toxin produced by fleas. Severe cases of toxoplasmosis may require antibiotics to kill the parasitic organisms causing central nervous system disorders.
- If your veterinarian diagnoses your cat with an injury that will heal over time, they may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pressure on the spinal area.
- If your cat is unable to walk, urinate, or defecate, they may need to be hospitalized while your veterinarian works on their diagnosis. Your veterinarian will monitor your cat’s recovery and progress.
- If your cat is in pain, it will be given pain medication to help control the pain. Its bladder will be emptied multiple times a day through a catheter, and it will be repositioned throughout the day to prevent bedsores from forming when lying down.
8. Prognosis for Paralyzed Cats
- It is important to care for your cat properly to ensure its full recovery. Follow all the instructions given by your veterinarian carefully. If your veterinarian prescribes medication, be sure to use the full course, even if your cat appears completely recovered.
- If you have any questions or concerns regarding the care of your cat, seek assistance from your veterinarian and do not administer pain relievers or any other medication without consulting the veterinarian, as some human medications can be toxic to animals.
- The prognosis for your cat’s recovery depends on the severity and cause of its paralysis. Generally, you will begin to see improvement in 1-2 months. Keep a close eye on your cat’s health and consult with your veterinarian about medication and treatment progress.
- If your cat has been affected by paralysis, they should be spayed or neutered to prevent the risk of further injury during mating. This is a simple and easy procedure. You can refer to the spaying procedure for cats and the precautions to be taken as per the instructions.
- In some situations where the cat is severely injured or suddenly paralyzed in both hind legs, it may be difficult or impossible to heal. A paralyzed cat that cannot be treated faces many difficulties in life. Therefore, you should learn how to care for a cat with paralyzed hind legs to make their lives happier and easier.
Many people believe that cat paralysis is caused by a lack of calcium. However, the causes of cat paralysis are much more complex and can include various factors such as infections, injuries, inflammation, and more. When you notice signs of paralysis in your cat, it is best to take them for a veterinary examination as soon as possible. The prognosis for a paralyzed cat depends on the severity and underlying cause. If your cat is paralyzed, it is important to provide them with a suitable environment and proper care. It may not be easy, but the dedication is well worth it when you see your cat living a happy life despite their paralysis.