Prepare for unexpected vet bills

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.

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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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Patches

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Short hair domesti

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13 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Difficult Breathing Lameness Rightlimb
Difficult Breathing Lameness Ri
Difficult Breathing
Difficult Breathing, Lameness

My cat has been diagnosed with lung cancer and has limp right leg Should I see oncologist? 13 years old Gave curcumin Difficult breathing slight enlarged heart ER vet said lasix. I took patches home He suggested put to sleep or take home to eventually pass

Aug. 18, 2018

Patches' Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

If the only alternatives that you were given were euthanasia or letting Patches die at home, and you want to see if there are other therapies, seeing an oncologist might be a good idea. They'll be able to examine her and give you an idea if there are any other therapies that might help her.

Aug. 19, 2018

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Buttercup

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tabby

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12 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Lame
Limping

My cat has came in from the rain and he cannot walk on one of his back legs. He is wobbling around and refusing to put weight on it, and has fell over a few times. But he seems not to be in any pain at all, letting us touch the leg and continuing to walk around for pets like he would normally. Hes not a young cat anymore and he is quite overweight so we are worried it could have been a minor stroke, or maybe with the heavy rain he slipped and fell wrong or a car may have hit him.

July 29, 2018

Buttercup's Owner

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0 Recommendations

There are many causes for limping in cats which may include simple sprains or more severe injuries; sprains, dislocations, fractures, insect bites among other causes may lead to limping. You should keep Buttercup well rested and restrict movement to prevent further injury, visit your Veterinarian if there is no improvement in the limp or is vocalising in pain. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 30, 2018

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Lameness Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$800

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

Plan ahead. Get the pawfect insurance plan for your pup.

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