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What is Slipped Disc?

A slipped disc in cats is termed intervertebral disc disease (IVDD). This rather rare feline disease is a condition of neurological dysfunction the spinal cord. The intervertebral discs act as shock absorbers between the bones of the spine and allows the feline a great deal of movement. Over time, these discs experience degeneration of the nucleus pulposus (water within the disc) and lose shock absorption abilities, resulting in a compression of the spine. IVDD can affect the feline in any spinal column location, but the lower back, middle of the back, and neck are the most common locations of this condition.

If your cat has lost her ability to walk, is reluctant to jump up, and cries out when she is handled, then your cat could be suffering from a slipped disc. A disc is the gel-filled cushion between the cat’s vertebrae of the spinal column. The discs between the vertebrae, known as intervertebral discs, prevents the vertebra from pushing together, protecting the nerves. However, when these discs herniate or bulge, the vertebrae come together and compress on the various nerves running through the spinal cord space. The end result of one of these discs “slipping” is a great deal of pain, damage to the nerve, and even paralysis. 

Slipped Disc Average Cost

From 587 quotes ranging from $200 - $6,000

Average Cost

$4,000

Symptoms of Slipped Disc in Cats

The symptoms associated with slipped disc in cats depends on the severity of the condition. Mild cases of IVDD may cause a feline to exhibit uncoordinated behavior and localized pain, but severe IVDD can cause a feline to lose mobility altogether. 

  • Paralysis 
  • Inability to walk properly
  • Problems with balance or coordination
  • Reluctance to engage in physical activity
  • Reluctance to jump up
  • Vocalizing upon handling 
  • Pain in the back
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Causes of Slipped Disc in Cats

Slipped disc in cats is caused by a degeneration of the fluid filled, nucleus pulposus of the intervertebral discs. A slipped disc can also be due to intervertebral herniation or bulging of the disc. The discs of the spinal column cushion the bones of the spine, working as shock absorbers when the feline moves. As the feline gets older, these fluid-filled cushions can breakdown resulting in nerve compressions. In other instances, the outer layer of the disc hardens due to unknown reasons and a traumatic incident causes the disc to slip out of place.

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Diagnosis of Slipped Disc in Cats

The diagnosis of a slipped disc in cats will begin with a complete medical history, physical examination, and an exchange of noted clinical signs from the cat owner. The diagnosis of intervertebral disc disease is based on the physical examination. In addition to these routine diagnostic tests, your veterinarian will likely proceed to conduct the following tests: 

X-rays

X-rays, or radiographs, are used to detect the location of spinal compression. 

Myelogram

A myelogram is the processes of inserting a needle into the dural sac (a bag that surrounds the spinal cord) and administering a colored dye. The dye will highlight any abnormalities within the spinal column, visible to the doctor on an x-ray. 

A CT Scan

A CT scan is used to clearly identify the located disc to be used in the treatment procedure. 

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Treatment of Slipped Disc in Cats

Your veterinarian will base your feline’s treatment plan based on the severity of the condition. A mild case of slipped disc in cats can be treated with medication, but if the feline cannot move properly or is paralyzed, surgery is likely required. Medical treatment options for a feline with a slipped disc may include a form of steroidal drug to reduce inflammation and muscle relaxants to depress intramuscular spasms. When medical treatment proves ineffective, or if the case has become severe, surgery may be necessary.

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Recovery of Slipped Disc in Cats

Recovery time for a cat with a slipped disc depends on the severity of the condition and type of treatment the feline received. Medical treatments usually last approximately four to six weeks with the addition of activity restriction, but can be accomplished as an outpatient. If the feline has undergone surgery, he or she will spend a couple days in the hospital to recuperate after the surgery. When the cat is allowed to return home, orders for activity restriction and pain medications are often sent home with the patient. Most cat owners are given an estimate of six to eight weeks recovery time for a surgically corrected slipped disc in their cat. 

Follow-up care with the veterinarian is extremely important as both medical and surgical treatments of a slipped disc can have aftermath complications. The best way for your cat to have a positive prognosis is by paying close attention to what your veterinarian is telling you and following at home care directions.

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Slipped Disc Average Cost

From 587 quotes ranging from $200 - $6,000

Average Cost

$4,000

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Slipped Disc Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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dog-breed-icon

Short hair

dog-age-icon

4 months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy

The clinic diagnosed with a small disc in his lower spin which will affect his ability to walk but a couple weeks before he was running around fine. Is there a surgery available for this?

July 23, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello I'm sorry to see that your pup has disc disease. This condition can be treated medically versus surgically. Steroids, pain medication and muscle relaxers, along with rest for many weeks can help. If there is minimal improvement, or your pup gets worse, usually a veterinary neurologist or surgeon can perform back surgery. It is recommended to consult with your vet to determine the best treatment plan for you pet. Good luck.

July 23, 2020

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Hercules

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American Short-Hair

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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

Pain When Lifted
Trouble Walking

My cat has in the past 12 hours or so gone from limping on back right leg to unable to move it at all. It has clenched at the top of the joint. We had him on meds in the past for joint issues but he has been off it for several months. I’m not sure if it is this or not, but what should I do before I can get to a vet? Or what could it be?

June 20, 2018

Hercules' Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Hercules may have significant arthritis, or he may have a back injury that needs to be treated. Without being able to examine him, I can't comment on which might be happening to him, as he'll need to be seen to see what the cause is. Since it happened so suddenly, it would be a good idea to have him seen sooner rather than later.

June 20, 2018

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Tigger

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short hair

dog-age-icon

12 Years

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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

Sometimes Wobbly

My cat after she has jumped down will sometimes wag her tail and sway her hips and after putting her into her cage she turned the corner sharply and one of her back legs seemed to slip out from under neath her should I be worried

June 8, 2018

Tigger's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

It is difficult to say, it may have been just a misplacing of the paw which led to the leg slipping underneath her; you should keep an eye on her for the time being but if you notice any changes in gait, limping or anything else you should visit your Veterinarian to be on the safe side as I cannot tell without examining her. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 9, 2018

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Dayz

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Domestic long hair

dog-age-icon

2 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

Cant Walk

2 year old cat acute onset of mobility issues. can feel and react all limbs and tail when pinched but cannot hold up her body or walk. is eating and drinking well on own when propped up. head tilt to the left. all xrays and blood test done show nothing abnormal or significant. ears are clean, no swelling or irritation. no lesions seen on inner ear or brain. pupils dilate correctly and no eye shaking. no fever. up to date on all shots and no behavioral changes. still alert and reactive, has been 5 days since initial exam. steroid shot and antibiotic shot given. oral steroids(prednisone) and antibiotics (clindamysin) given for 4 full days with no improvement. increasing pred to immuno suppressant level.............. any ideas???

May 31, 2018

Dayz's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Unfortunately, I don't have any other suggestions that you and your veterinarian haven't already pursued, other than a spinal tap and possible treatment for Neospora or Toxoplasma. I'm sure that your veterinarian has already ruled that out or is treating for it, but it is worth asking. I hope that Dayz recovers.

May 31, 2018

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Tigger

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Tabby siamese

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17 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

Paralysis
Uncontrollable Bladder

My cat slipped a disk in her lower back last night so we took her to the vet and he gave her too shots. Her back legs dangle and her tail is useless. Her bladder and bowels also go when they please which is not like her at all. In 48 hours if she hasn't shown improvment she may have to get out down due to her age. I do not want that to happen at all. She has slightly moved her legs but that's it. She is not in any pain as far as we know. Im just really worried about her.

April 5, 2018

Tigger's Owner

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recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

A slipped disc in a cat Tigger’s age leaves you only with medical management options; if this is unsuccessful you would be looking at palliative and nursing care for the remainder of her life. You should see how Tigger responds over the next few days and return to your Veterinarian to discuss progress, if any. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

April 5, 2018

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Rio

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Bengal cross breed

dog-age-icon

11 Years

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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

Walks With A Limp To Back Right Leg

Rio came in after 20 minutes limping, after a visit to a vet and further examination by the vet specialist, he has a slipped disc. He has been prescribed gabapentin, I am wondering how this medication helps?

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Boots

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Long hair tuxedo

dog-age-icon

13 Years

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Critical severity

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Paralysis
Unable To Urinate
Disc Bulge

My cat Boots is a 13 year old male. He has previously struggled with IVDD, but normally when he plays too rough he is in pain but still has use of his hind legs. So we would put him in a pen for 2 weeks to keep him from jumping on things or moving around too much and give him pain medication until he heals. Then he's back to 100%. However, the other day we found him lying in a dark corner and he back legs were paralyzed. After taking him to the vet we found on an x-ray a disc bulge or rupture . We also found that his bladder was full and he wasn't able to go to the bathroom on his own. Surgery was offered as an option, but the vet didn't seem to think the quality of life would be good . My question is, how often do cats have successful surgeries on ruptured disc's (able to walk again, live pain free, etc)?

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Mr.Socks

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Black & white

dog-age-icon

1 Year

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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

Fever
Vomiting
Sleepy

My year old cat was fine in the morning playing running around, he come back from a day outside just sat there swaying Side to side and he's eyes look dazed and also start to vomit bile Took him to the vets and had to be kept overnight with IV fluids and antibiotics to get he's temperature down. Hes got a suspected slipped disc or a abscess on he's back from a cat fight bite so he has a infection can't tell as need a CT scan but we can't afford as stupidly we didn't insure him and already spent over £1000 he has a check up so hopefully he getsbe tree with medicine. I'm just so worried that he has to be caged for two to six weeks he looks so depressed and unhappy I just want to cuddle him.

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Jack

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dsh

dog-age-icon

18 Years

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

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Wobbly Walk, Difficulty Jumping Up

18 months ago my 17 year old cat exhibited signs of herniated disc. He gradually improved but just recently it’s repeated. He’s on prednisone and has improved some. Other than this he’s in excellent health. Would age alone rule out surgery? Expense would be burdensome but would consider if recovery wouldn’t be horribly painful for him. He’s now 18.

Slipped Disc Average Cost

From 587 quotes ranging from $200 - $6,000

Average Cost

$4,000

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