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What are Lameness?

Lameness isn’t an illness, rather it is a symptom of an illness or injury. Once the cat owner notices their cat limping, it’s important to get the right diagnosis so the cat doesn’t develop permanent muscle or nerve disorders.

A cat who is unable to walk, run, or jump normally may be considered lame. The cat may be in obvious pain and the affected limb may look abnormal. While cats are generally able to land upright when they jump or fall, it is possible for them to suffer limb injuries which result in lameness. Some cats may develop lameness as the result of an illness.

Lameness Average Cost

From 566 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,000

Average Cost

$800

Symptoms of Lameness in Cats

Cats are experts in hiding signs of illness or injury. As an injury or illness worsens, however, the cat will be unable to hide its pain, making symptoms easier to spot:

  • Stiffness
  • Lessened physical activity (jumping or running)
  • More vocalization than normal
  • Refusing to be touched or handled
  • Decreased interactions with others
  • Lessened appetite
  • Favors the affected limb, obviously limping
  • Stops to rest while walking
  • Unable to walk
  • Acts aggressively
  • Swelling in the affected limb
  • Inflammation
  • Lethargic
  • Refuses to bear weight on affected limb
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Causes of Lameness in Cats

It’s not only jumps or falls from high areas that lead to a cat becoming lame. Other causes can include:

Injuries

  • Ligament injuries
  • Bruising
  • Broken bones
  • Tendonitis
  • Myositis or inflamed muscle
  • Bites from other animals
  • Frostbite
  • Broken claw
  • Infection of the claw bed
  • Cut in pad of foot or on leg
  • Footpad disease
  • Object embedded in the foot
  • Snake bite
  • Injury to spinal disc or vertebrae

Illness

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Nerve damage
  • Developmental or congenital conditions
  • Joint condition (may be inflammatory)
  • Infections, such as calicivirus
  • Progressive polyarthritis (immune system disorder)
  • Cancer of the bone
  • Metabolic disease such as diabetes
  • Fungal infection
  • Bad nutrition
  • Minor stroke
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Diagnosis of Lameness in Cats

The vet relies on their patients’ owners to describe just what is happening to the cat. Using the owner's’ observations, the vet gives the cat a full physical exam, looking for signs of the lameness, as well as what is causing the condition. 

During the exam, the vet may find obvious causes, such as a foreign object embedded in the footpad. Other underlying causes may not be as easy to detect. This is when the vet gives one of several kinds of tests to the cat:

  • X-rays
  • Blood testing (looking for infectious or immune system diseases)
  • Biopsies
  • Removing joint fluid with a fine needle 
  • CT scan or MRI
  • Ultrasound
  • Neurological exam
  • Myelograph (injecting dye along the spinal cord and taking a special X-ray)
  • Electromyography (recording electrical activity of affected muscle tissue)
  • Endoscopic exploratory surgery
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Treatment of Lameness in Cats

In addition to treating the underlying cause of a cat’s lameness, vets want to manage the pain the cat is feeling. They will start with a less invasive treatment before moving to a more invasive pain treatment if the less invasive options don’t work.

The first option is pain medications, which range from nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, which reduce joint or ligament inflammation. While the cat is taking this medication, the vet will be watching the cat closely to ensure it doesn’t develop kidney, liver, or gastrointestinal damage. Along with this form of treatment, the vet may prescribe cage rest.

If NSAIDS don’t work, the vet will prescribe opioid pain medications, such as tramadol, buprenorphine or butorphanol. These medications are reserved for more acute pain. The cat can take oral medications or receive injections of this medication.

Chondroprotectants are drugs that protect the cartilage that surrounds the joint. These medications are reserved for cats diagnosed with osteoarthritis as they work to slow degradation of the cartilage in the affected limb. Again, these medications are given orally or as injections.

Complementary treatments may pain relief to the cat. These include chiropractic treatments, acupuncture, and physical therapy. Laser therapy may also be helpful. These treatments are intended to increase physical comfort to the cat as it works to return to a more normal function. Other treatments can include massage and dietary changes.

If the cat has a congenital condition that limits  the use of the limb or causes significant pain, the vet may suggest surgery to the cat’s owner.

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Recovery of Lameness in Cats

Depending on the cause of a cat’s lameness and it’s severity, along with the method of treatment and follow-up care, the affected cat can generally recover. For cats affected by osteoarthritis, their medication will help to slow the progress of the disease as well as offer some pain relief. If the arthritic cat is also overweight, a change in cat food that allows it to lose the extra weight can also lead to more significant relief of pain and lameness.

For cats diagnosed with osteoarthritis, it will be necessary to take pain relieving medications for the rest of its life. Regular veterinary follow-ups will also help improve quality of life for the pet.

Cat foods that contain a higher amount of Omega 3 and 6 (fatty acids) can also provide a small amount of pain relief by improving the health of affected joints.

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Lameness Average Cost

From 566 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,000

Average Cost

$800

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Lameness Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Meg

dog-breed-icon

domestic short hair

dog-age-icon

13 Years

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Fair severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Lameness

My 13 year old cat started slightly limping two weeks ago . She was also subdued and not eating very much. The vet started her on antibiotics and anti inflammatories due to a raised temp. She perked up and started eating but the lameness grew more pronounced. X-rays revealed nothing five days after the initial appointments however her temp was higher. Both us and the vet don't think she is in pain.The vet has recommended we continue with anti inflammatory and observe for one week. Her leg appears to be jutting out to the side . The added complication is that she is on alendronic acid for high potassium and amodip for raised blood pressure . Any ideas re what could be wrong ?

Sept. 20, 2018

Meg's Owner

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kitten

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Mutt

dog-age-icon

18 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Loss Of Appetite
Sleepy
Lame

my cat behavior has completely changed. before he was a very active young cat playful and active. these past couple of day has been a 180 from that. he barely moves, when he does he moves extremely slowly like hes in pain or extremely old. he has lost all intrest in dry food, but still has some intrest in wet food. I'm not sure about his potty habits before, but in the last 24hr he has gone pee once, I have seen him go poop yet.he looks like he has sensitivity on his back half. if he does move it's a couple feet at a time and multiple hours in between times he moves. all he does is sleep now. what could be causing this?

Sept. 17, 2018

kitten's Owner

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Kitten

dog-breed-icon

Mutt

dog-age-icon

18 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Loss Of Appetite
Sleepy
Lame

my cat has lost intrest in food and barley walks any more. if he does walk its extremely slowly and he can only go a couple of feet. Hes lost all intrest in hard food, but will still eat a little wet food. when he walks sometimes he walks backwards. I've seen him pee once in the last 24 hrs but not poop. all he does is sleep now. what's wrong with him

Sept. 17, 2018

Kitten's Owner

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Gomi

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DomesticCat

dog-age-icon

3 Months

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Mild severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Loss Of Appetite, Limping

My cat is about 3 months and I believe his right back leg is hurt.I have tried to find out what's wrong with his leg but i haven't succeeded. He's been asleep more than usual today and has lack of appetite. He tries not to put too much pressure on his leg but he has no energy and seems sad. What can I do if he does not have a vet?

Sept. 11, 2018

Gomi's Owner

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Zippers

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Mix

dog-age-icon

2 Years

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Moderate severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Lameness

My cat was fine for a few days. She started limping Tuesday. We took her in right away because on soft surfaces she would start screaming and hissing and growling. The vets couldn't find anything and said that it could be a hairline fracture or a deep tissue bruise. They gave us a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory med and a mild sedative. We finished off her anti-inflammatory med and have been doing what we can doth the pain killer, but she is still limping. She isn't crying or screaming in pain anymore, bit she lifts the hind leg that hurts and falls over and rests until she feels ready to move again. I have done a ton of research and it seems like she might have a sprain?? I don't know. We can't afford it if she needs surgery and I wanted the opinion of someone who might know how to help? How long does a sprain take to heal? Should she still be limping after just under a week?

Sept. 10, 2018

Zippers' Owner

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Milo

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lite tan Tabby

dog-age-icon

15 Years

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Serious severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Can'T Put Weight On Right Rear Leg
Won'T Eat Eat Or Drink
Sudden Appearance Of Lamness

My cat Milo is 15 years old and has suddenly can't put weight on his right rear leg. The foot will hang with a curled paw but when he puts it down, he falls over. He was fine hours before so I assume it is and injury. He is in obvious pain and now just laid on my bed where I put him. I can't afford to take him to the vet. Last December he was diagnosed with feline leukemia and feline aids but recovered from a severe sickness to acting healthy right up to this injury. He won't eat or drink, so I have been forcing him to drink fluids with an eyedropper

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Willow

dog-breed-icon

American Shorthair

dog-age-icon

2 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Won'T Bear Weight On Paw

My 2 year old cat Willow cut her paw on some broken glass. The cut was deep so I took her to an emergency vet who gave her stitches on the inside and the outside of her paw. She seemed to heal well and started using her paw again. But a few days ago she started limping and avoiding putting weight on her healing paw. I took her to a new vet for a follow up visit. He said that it looks fine and there is nothing we can do for a lame cat, even if the tendons have been injured. Is it true that there is nothing that can be done? How long does it normally take for a deep cut just above the foot pad to heal? Should I expect some improvement, or will she be lame for the rest of her life? How can I tell if the injury damaged the tendons/ligaments or if she is experiencing nerve damage? Are there medicines to alleviate nerve pain in cats?

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TAI

dog-breed-icon

mixed

dog-age-icon

6 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

My beautiful Tai is worsening daily! this is what has happened and I really need advice. in August I went away and let a firend stay in my home to watch my animals 2 dogs and my 2 cats. she never told me that one of her dogs does not get along with cats! in the second week of me being away Tai went missing and when I came home 10 days later he had still not returned home! I was beside myself! 3 days later he returned skin and bones and his front leg had a wound and he was limping also not balanced, a bit like he was drunk. I took him to the vet and we did all the tests that came back normal! the vet said it was a mental issue he gave him an anti inflammatory shot he seemed to get a bit better, then he went down hill again and stopped eating R9000 vets bills later they still don't know whats wrong and its to expensive to take him for the MRI tests he is now lame in that leg. and very misrable what should I do? he is only 6.5 years old im force feeling him with recovery food giving him CBD oil

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Billy

dog-breed-icon

Cat

dog-age-icon

11 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Paralysis
Lame

My cat Billy, 11 years old, had a clean bill of health. Two days ago I noticed a slight change in walking. It has progressively gotten worse. This morning he would take 1-2 steps with his hind legs and then sit, almost like a hop. I took him to the vet today and both blood test and x-ray were unremarkable. He was prescribed both a liquid steroid and a liquid pain reliever (opioid but blanking on the name). The vet suggested a neurologist estimating $5-8k which is not realistic with my salary (paramedic). One thing to note, two nights ago he did have a fall from the bedside table (2-3 feet). It was dark and o didn’t see how he fell. No changes to appetite. Was the vet correct and I should start preparing for the end? Please ask for further details if needed to give me a second opinion. This guy has been with me through school, a marriage, a divorce. He is my rock.

Lameness Average Cost

From 566 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,000

Average Cost

$800

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