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What are Leg Paralysis?

When leg paralysis occurs in a cat, it is in need of urgent veterinary attention. Care should be taken when transporting the cat so as not to cause further impairment or injury.

The inability of an animal to move or feel one or more legs is referred to as leg paralysis. When motor and sensory function is only partially impaired, this is referred to as paresis. When function is completely impaired it is referred to as paralysis. The inability to move all four legs is tetraplegia, whereas paraplegia occurs when the animal cannot move two legs. Leg paralysis can be the result of several things that are not common in cats including trauma from a fall, accident or abuse, viruses, or tick bites.

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Leg Paralysis Average Cost

From 397 quotes ranging from $500 - $4,000

Average Cost

$1,800

Symptoms of Leg Paralysis in Cats

General symptoms of paralysis are:

  • Loss of movement and/or loss of feeling in leg(s)
  • Incontinence (urinary or fecal)
  • Constipation
  • Limb weakness (paresis) or inability to move (complete paralysis)
  • Lack of pain response in the limb(s)

In addition, symptoms specific to the cause of the paralysis may be present as in the following situations:

  • Dragging leg: radial nerve paralysis
  • Cold limbs, absent or hard to discern pulse in groin: thrombosis (blood clot)
  • Dilated pupils, coughing: tick paralysis
  • Pain, reluctance to move: slipped disc or spine injury
  • Swollen abdomen, weight loss, fever, labored breathing: feline infectious peritonitis
  • Loss of appetite, lethargy: toxoplasmosis
  • Neurological symptoms such as circling, tilted head, fixed pupils: stroke
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Causes of Leg Paralysis in Cats

There are a variety of causes of paralysis in the limbs which result in a malfunction in the brain, spinal cord, or nerves that connect the central nervous system (CNS) to the legs. These include:

  • Blood Clot: Thrombosis where the aorta joins with iliac arteries results in paralysis of both legs. Thrombosis in iliac artery of either leg can result in paralysis of that leg specifically
  • Tick bite: Ticks bites can release neurotoxins into the cat, resulting in nervous system malfunction and paralysis.
  • Stroke: Lack of oxygen to the brain destroys the part of brain controlling leg movement.
  • Trauma: Broken pelvis, injured spine
  • Cancerous tumor: Tumors in the brain or spine can impair CNS function.
  • Slipped disk: puts pressure on spine
  • Toxoplasmosis parasitic infection  Usually is symptom-free in cats but can, in rare cases, cause nervous system impairment.
  • Viral infection: Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
  • Botulism
  • Inflammation of the spine or CNS
  • Infection of CNS
  • Cryptococcus - fungal infection that can affect the CNS

  • Nerve damage
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Diagnosis of Leg Paralysis in Cats

Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical and neurological exam. He or she will look for signs of trauma and check for pain response in the affected limb(s). They will look for tick bites and check for a weak or absent pulse in groin area that would indicate a thrombosis. Your vet will ask you for a complete medical history of your cat, including any possible accidents or environmental hazards.

In addition, a blood count and urinalysis will be performed to identify possible secondary causes such as infection. An x-ray or ultrasound may be ordered to provide images of the spine and brain, which may reveal tumors or inflammation. In the case of a suspected slipped disk a myelogram may be performed, which involves injecting dye and performing an x-ray to see where a slipped disk may be pressing on spine. If FIP is suspected, a test for FIP may involve taking a fluid sample from abdomen or taking a blood test depending on the type of FIP suspected.

CTs or MRIs are also useful tools to locate the source of nervous system malfunction resulting in paralysis.

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Treatment of Leg Paralysis in Cats

Leg paralysis in cats is an urgent condition and requires veterinary treatment. Your veterinarian will provide supportive care such as hospitalization, intravenous fluids and oxygen therapy as appropriate. Steroids or anti-inflammatories to reduce spinal inflammation are commonly administered. 

  • Further treatment options for paralysis will vary depending on the cause. Various treatments include:
  • Administration of antiserum to counteract neurotoxins released by a tick bite. 
  • Surgical removal of tumors causing nervous system impairment.
  • Painkillers and surgery, if required, to repair trauma or injury causing nervous system impairment.
  • Severe cases of toxoplasmosis may require antibiotics to kill the parasite causing CNS disorder.
  • Thrombosis can be treated with clot-dissolving medications and painkillers but prognosis is guarded and euthanasia may be recommended.
  • Massage therapy and physiotherapy for radial nerve paralysis may be beneficial.

In cases which paralysis is caused by FIP, there is a poor prognosis and euthanasia is usually recommended.

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Recovery of Leg Paralysis in Cats

Prognosis and recovery will depend on the cause and extent of nervous system impairment that resulted in the paralysis. Massage and physiotherapy can be beneficial on a continuing basis. The animal should rest in a confined area without stimulation from other animals or exposure to hazards in its environment that could cause further injury.

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Leg Paralysis Average Cost

From 397 quotes ranging from $500 - $4,000

Average Cost

$1,800

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Leg Paralysis Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

dog-name-icon

dog-breed-icon

mixed

dog-age-icon

Fourteen Years

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

Unknown severity

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2 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Back Legs Drag

Has fleas

Nov. 7, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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2 Recommendations

Thank you for your questions. Without seeing your dog, it is difficult to say what might be going on, but I do not think that fleas would cause your dog to drag its back legs. He may have a problem with his spine, his back, his hips, or his knees, and there may be medication that can help him. It would be best to call and make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible, and have him seen so that they can examine him and see what treatment he may need.

Nov. 7, 2020

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Dosemtic cat

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Thirteen Years

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

Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Dragging Back Legs And Screaming All Of Of Sudden

she was find then all of of sudden she threw up and couldn't stand on her back legs she dragging her legs and screaming alot

Sept. 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Older dogs can be prone to back injuries, and those can be emergency situations. If she was dragging her back legs and not able to use them, and screaming in pain, she needs to see an emergency veterinarian right away. Prompt action can sometimes prevent long term paralysis in these situations. I hope that she is okay.

Oct. 1, 2020

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Leg Paralysis Average Cost

From 397 quotes ranging from $500 - $4,000

Average Cost

$1,800

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

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

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