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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.

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

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Domestic short hair

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Eight Years

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Unknown severity

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2 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Back Legs Giving Out, When Spooked She Pees And Runs Dragging Both Back Legs

Since this morning she has been getting spooked very easily and when she does she starts running around running into things and dragging her back legs, she also urinated on the floor and on herself when she was running through the house. Once she calms down she still has a slight limp. And every so often her back side will tip over ever so slightly. I took her to the ER this morning and they said all of her vitals were fine but she’s never acted this way and I’m horrified. I’m scared she isn’t okay. She is eating and drinking fine. Do these symptoms sound like anything in particular

July 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. It is difficult to say what might be going on without seeing her, but pain can make cats act that way, and if she is dragging her back legs, she may have a problem. I would have her seen again by your regular veterinarian as soon as they open this morning, and try to keep her confined so that she can't traumatize her self by running around the house, if possible. I hope that she is okay.

July 30, 2020

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cat

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1 1/2 years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Enlarged Kidneys, Hardly Able To Walk On Hind Legs, Won'T Eat, Lethargic, Emaciated

I had sent a question earlier asking if there was hope for my little cat. I just need some confirmation of what has transpired since my previous question. Hi, Thank you for your response; however, since I sent that email he has gotten worse. He hasn't eaten anything more than the teaspoon of food I gave him. I put him on the kitchen floor to feed him. He wouldn't eat, he was just about dragging himself on the floor because he was barely able to stand on his hind legs. Then he started turning around in circles and looked very scared. Earlier when I held him, his little body was limp and cold.

July 22, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello- Thank you for reaching out again. With this further information I do think that it sounds like he is declining. It may be time to discuss quality of life for him and consider humane euthanasia. He sounds very ill and like he is worsening since you last reached out. I would talk with your vet and see if hospitalization and IV fluids would be beneficial for him. It may or may not help, but your vet can definitely help you decide what to do. I am sorry you have having to go through this. It is very difficult to make these decisions for the pets we love.

July 22, 2020

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Butters

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tabby

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1 Year

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Twitching In Head Makes Moody
No Control Of Urinary Or Fecal
Hind Legs Shake A Lot

My kittens hind legs was accidentlly closed in our slider back down very hard. He was able to move quickly outta the door when I opened it but his back legs were shaking wildly and then he was dragging them behind him. He swelled up pretty badly for the first week or so. We didnt have the money for the vet so we had to wait a few weeks before able to bring him in. They took several xrays and was concerned about a certain area they werent able to get a good view on. The vet said that if that area was what she expects then it would be recommended to put my baby Butters down. However, the area wasnt able to be seen. I explained thats its been a few weeks now and he had no use at all. But seems like the feelings are coming back in legs and they are now shaking and he opens his toes again as well when played with. He moves his legs back n forth too but im guessing that may be the nerve damage doing the moving part as well. The vet said crate him for 4-6wks with no movement then take him back to see where hes at then. Now Butters has no control on his urine and fecal movements. They just come outta him when ready I guess. But he will try to use cat box but still leaves a trail behind him. How do i stop this from happening? And I was wondering what our vet was looking for in the xrays that would of ended the fate of my kitty? He was said to have a fractured pelvis but the spot she wanted to see so badly wasnt clear enough for her to tell if he ended to be put down. Would anyone know what she was looking for by chance? And now 3 months after accident hes grow much larger and ive noticed hes having more trouble pulling himself around now. He has to put more effort into it. He also seems to have a twitching in his head too suddenly? Like.. sounds crazy but he twitches his head several times and then he goes into attack and mean crazy cat mood. sometimes he looks like hes stuck starring around confused but yet his face says it all to not touch him because he may get you hurt as well.. Thanks for the help with my questions and hope to hear from someone asap

Sept. 23, 2018

Butters' Owner

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Schnooger

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Domestic long hair

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4 Months

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Paresis

My wife and I rescued 3 kittens. They were very young, all skin and bones. 2 of the 3 were very energetic and climbing on everything. Schnooger was one of those two, full of energy. The third one has some issues but we got her healthy and now she's all over everything. Out of nowhere, Schnooger started having wobbly hind legs. She started sleeping all of the time. When she's up and goes to look left or right, it's like she has to turn her upper body with her head. I'm afraid that there has been some physical trauma but am unsure. I've taken her to the vet twice and he says it's most likely cerebellar hypoplasia. She went, overnight, from crazy energy and climbing on everything to her current condition. Should I be more concerned or more demanding that this issue be looked into more by my vet?

Sept. 21, 2018

Schnooger's Owner

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Clover

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Domestic Long Haired

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12 Weeks

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Back End Paralysis

I was looking after a farm and came across a previously perfectly healthy kitten who was dragging its back end. Took it to the vet. Didn't know the cause. Was locked in furnace room with mother and sibling. Never outside. Took it to the Vet who put on steriods and anibiotics. Took home and nursed and cage rested. Ate and drank well. Could still urinate and pass stools. 2 weeks later she never recovered the use of her legs. The Vet said at this point she wouldn't recover. We euthanized her today. Her quality of life was not good. Her teeth never came in either. By this time she was 10 to 12 weeks old. Her mother was a barn cat and vaccination history was questionable. The vet thought it may be panleukopenia. But she never had any of the obvious symptoms. No diarrhea or was healthy except for her back end paralyis. What do you think. I think it must have been an injury.

Sept. 19, 2018

Clover's Owner

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Rylo

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Stray cat

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1 Month

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Paralysis

I found this stray kitten under my car, probably a month old. She couldn't move her back legs although there were no wounds, lumps, and no pain (when I tried to move or squeeze her back legs) present. She's still pretty active, she tries to walk & drag her back legs around and eats when I hand feed her. Yesterday she stretched her back legs very slightly and moved her tail a little. She still looks like she wants to live and has the ability to live. Although due to the quarantine, we are unable to bring her to any local vet. I want her to live, what can I do at home?

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Blacky

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American Shorthair

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19 Days

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Dragging Back Legs
Scooting By Front Legs
Dragging Back Legs, Wobbly

19 day old kitten dragging back legs. He can move them and attempts to stand but falls on his face. It is like he has no control over them like they are weak but they do work. He scoots with his front legs and climbs. There is movement to back ones and he tries but falls over instantly. He even “runs” with many rolls, scoots and pulling from front legs. The other kittens can walk now straight up.

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Nona

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Siamese

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9 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

Right Back Leg Will Not Move

My cat Nona, went into the vet on Monday January 13, 2020. We noticed on the 12th that her right back leg was being favored. She also had not been going in the litter box she had been peeing outside the litter box several times but she had me walking around OK. Talk to Vet on Monday, January 13, 2020 and her blood work came back fine they put her on prednisone and she is now eating but not drinking out of the water dish, I put water in with her wet cat food. And then we have to put her into the litter box so she can go do her thing. When she is done and she turns around she falls over. She walks around the house and stops and just stands there she can’t get up from a laying positionWithout struggling. She was a rescue so her age is between 7 to 10 years old we got her in 2015 she’s been fine up until a couple of days ago

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Kitty

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Cross

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2 Months

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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

Paralysis

My cat is 2 months of old. She had hind limb paralysis from 2weeks. And olso having abdominal pain during palpation. When we give deworming she became recovered. But after 2 weeks she showing similar symptoms like previous.there is a another cat of my neighbors, he also showing similar condition.are there any treatment for this condition?

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Loto

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European Shorthair

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4 Months

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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

Sneezing
Leg Paralysis
Cat Flu
Back Legs Weakness

I have an outdoor kitten. He's around 4-5 months old. 2 weeks ago, he started showing signs of a cold. I feared he might have caught something (from his brother who had bacteria and took antibiotics). And i took him to the vet. He was given a couple of injections. He was scared and fussed a lot though! The vet gave me pills for home (antibiotics). I couldn't get him to eat anything. He got worse. Coughing. Sneezing. Legarthy. Loss of appetite. No fever. He stopped eating for like 5 days. I fed him stome yogurt one night and he started back on food slightly. I yook him to the vet again for 5 days. He was given more shots. The vet said he caught a virus because i missed his pills. I was feeling very guilty. I don't know if it's true. Anyway, he was getting better slightly. Back to eat and sniffing. Better appearance. No blackness around the mouth and nose. Still sneezing and shaking his head. I noticed he was weak while moving. His back legs kept giving out. While sitting,they slightly feels more extended outwards. He kept faltering while walking. I thought maybe because he was sitting all these days sick. But he now can't get on low edges, barely. He can still stand on his back legs but like when he's stretching they give out. I'm so worried for him. It's like he has no control of his lower part. They keep going right or left while he walks. The vet just gave him anesthetic today and said if it's trauma, he should get better. I'm scared it could be more, like a sensory disease. Does the virus he has got to do with this? Is it just a fall? I can't get him a scan or x-ray. Any help please? (PS: I'm not sure about his breed!)

Leg Paralysis Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$1,800

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