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What are Paralysis?

Paralysis in your cat, even if temporary or partial, is always an indication of an underlying condition or injury. You should seek immediate veterinary care if your cat displays signs of paralysis as this condition may lead to death or serious, permanent injury if not treated promptly by a professional.

Paralysis in cats occurs when your pet is unable to control or move its legs or some other portion of the body. Complete paralysis involves the complete lack of ability to move legs, neck, tail or other bodily parts. Partial paralysis, also called paresis, is the lack of full control over the body which may occur as weakness, lethargy, twitching, or extreme slow motion.

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Paralysis Average Cost

From 547 quotes ranging from $500 - $4,000

Average Cost

$1,400

Symptoms of Paralysis in Cats

Signs of paralysis in your cat may range from subtle to obvious depending on the underlying cause of the condition. Signs may occur suddenly (acute paralysis) or escalate over a long period of time. Signs to watch for include:

  • Inability to use or move portions of the body including neck, head, tongue, legs, tail or back
  • Improper or stumbling gait
  • Cat stepping on its own toes
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Uncontrolled twitching
  • Extreme slowness of moving distinguishable from lethargy
  • Lack of or delayed reaction to pain or other stimulus to legs, body, or affected area
  • Difficulty eating or drinking
  • Inappropriate urination
  • Dribbling of urine
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Causes of Paralysis in Cats

Paralysis in cats occurs when some portion of the structures that support the central nervous system have become damaged. A complicated pathway of nerves are encased within the spinal column of your cat. These nerves then connect the nerves in the brain to the nerves in the other portions of the body, allowing communication from the brain to the limbs, organs and other structures. When this communication is damaged, paralysis can occur. The location of paralysis can indicate which area of nerves has become damaged. Causes of damage can include:

  • Traumatic injury
  • Infection in bones or tissue near spine
  • Slipped discs in back that pinch or damage the nearby nerves (can occur when cat jumps from heights)
  • Inflammation in muscles surrounding the spine which places pressure on nearby nerves
  • Tick paralysis caused by tick bites
  • Tumors in the spine or brain which place pressure on the nerves
  • Malformation of spine or vertebrae
  • Certain chemicals or toxins that can permanently or temporarily cause nerves to cease to communicate (botulism is a common toxin)
  • Embolism which inhibits proper blood flow to affected limb
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Diagnosis of Paralysis in Cats

To diagnose paralysis in your cat, your veterinarian will need a thorough physical history of your cat. Of especial importance will be any recent injuries, trauma, falls or other high impact events that could have caused damage to your cat’s spinal cord. It will be important to document the approximate onset of signs, whether paralysis occurred gradually or all at once, and whether there is any fluctuation in the severity of the signs over time. 

During the exam, your veterinarian will pay careful attention and document thoroughly the severity of the paralysis and in which areas it is occurring. Your veterinarian may attempt to manipulate each individual limb and may also encourage movement by positioning limbs in awkward positions in order to determine if your cat will move them back. Your veterinarian may also use gentle probing, or potentially a fine needle, to determine whether your cat has any pain response. Attempting to elicit a pain response is a sensitive procedure and should only ever be conducted by a professional veterinarian.

Basic diagnostic tests such as blood and urine panels will help your veterinarian determine whether there is an underlying infection that may be causing inflammation. Your veterinarian may also take a sample of spinal fluid, if an infection is suspected.

The most definitive test for paralysis will be an MRI, CT scan or X-ray, which will allow your veterinarian to see any damage to the structures around the spinal nerves. This may be done with or without contrast. Contrast refers to a type of dye that can be injected into your cat’s spinal area. This dye will respond differently to X-ray waves, allowing for additional detail in images.

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Treatment of Paralysis in Cats

Treatment of paralysis in your cat will depend on the underlying cause of the condition. Suspected infection will be treated with antibiotics. In some cases, nerves can regrow or repair with time and proper care. If your veterinarian diagnoses an injury which your cat will heal from over time, they may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to reduce pressure in the spinal area. They will also advise you on the proper home treatment. 

Cats should never be left in the same position for more than two hours and my need assistance in manually emptying their bladder and bowels. Nutrients may need to be administered intravenously or through a feeding tube. In some cases, heating pads and light massage may encourage blood flow to the affected area which can encourage healing and growth. Gentle manipulation of muscles will also help minimize any atrophy, which will get your cat back on their feet more quickly once they have healed.

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Recovery of Paralysis in Cats

Prognosis for recovery in your cat will depend on the severity and cause of the condition. In some situations of severe damage or paralysis, it may be unlikely or impossible for your cat to heal. In cases of permanent paralysis, you and your veterinarian will discuss the appropriate measures given your pet’s quality of life.

In instances that healing and recovery is possible, it will be vitally important to follow all schedules for medications and physical therapy. Due to the complexity of supportive care for cats suffering from paralysis, an extended hospital stay may be advised if you are not able to keep up with the necessary timing of care required at home.

Recovery from any paralysis will be slow and lengthy, but generally, you should begin to see improvement over the course of 1-2 months. Frequent follow-up with your veterinarian will also be important to your cat’s long term health.

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Paralysis Average Cost

From 547 quotes ranging from $500 - $4,000

Average Cost

$1,400

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Paralysis Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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cat

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Four Months

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Unknown severity

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21 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Trouble Walking

My kitten was playing and running with siblings yesterday. They are strictly inside. She climbed onto foot of bed early this morning and now she's having issues walking. She has no sense of balance, she can fully move all her legs, her tail, her head but cannot walk at all. She wiggles or drags herself. I've studied some vet tech, but this is way outta my realm. She's not exhibiting any signs of pain. More meows of frustration or for her momma! The mother had a kitten from the last litter that had a genetic defect that caused her legs to bow & have issue pottying. But not this one.Any advice,thoughts

Nov. 6, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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21 Recommendations

Hi there, you are through to Dr Linda. I'm sorry this has happened and it is very concerning indeed. As this kitten was normal from birth and the issue presented suddenly after an injury, it is unlikely to be a congenital or inherited issue. It sounds more like spinal cord / neurological trauma. She does need to be checked over and may need some xrays so we know what we are dealing with.

Nov. 6, 2020

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dog-name-icon

dog-breed-icon

Bombay

dog-age-icon

Two human years

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Unknown severity

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10 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Cant Move,Refuse To Eat,Crying

What's wrog with my cat

Sept. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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10 Recommendations

Thank you for your question, I'm sorry that your cat is not feeling well. There are many things possibly wrong, including parasites, an intestinal foreign body or blockage, or infectious disease. Without being able to see him unfortunately, I cannot say what might be going on for sure. From your description, he sounds very sick, and needs to see a veterinarian right away. It will be able to examine him and let you know more what. I hope that he is okay.

Oct. 6, 2020

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Paralysis Average Cost

From 547 quotes ranging from $500 - $4,000

Average Cost

$1,400

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