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What is Spinal Trauma?

Cat owners learn from the vet that spinal trauma can develop from one of several causes—the agility and condition of the cat may not be contributing factors. Damage to the spine, spinal cord, and blood vessels can lead to a number or complications. Medications, surgery and supportive treatment may give the cat some relief as it recovers.

Spinal trauma is an injury to the spinal cord in a cat. This could be the result of disease, a fracture of the spine, a tumor located on or near the spine, or a significant injury such as a gunshot wound. Along with damage to the spinal cord, the cat may experience pain, sudden or worsening paralysis, and possibly respiratory failure. Because of the potential loss of vital bodily functions, when a cat owner suspects the cat has a spinal cord injury, the cat should be seen by a vet immediately. Quick treatment may improve the chances of recovery.

Spinal Trauma Average Cost

From 362 quotes ranging from $2,000 - $6,000

Average Cost

$4,000

Symptoms of Spinal Trauma in Cats

If a cat suffers a spinal injury, the onset of symptoms is sudden and can worsen over time:

  • Limp paralysis
  • Rigid paralysis
  • Pain
  • Urinary and fecal incontinence (if the tail has been yanked on or injured)
  • Lethargy
  • Reluctance to play
  • Limbs are limp
  • Unable to stand or walk
  • Lameness
  • Staggering
  • Limp tail

If the cat doesn’t seem to be experiencing pain in the limbs below the location of the spine injury, its prognosis may be poor.

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Causes of Spinal Trauma in Cats

Cats, especially if they are allowed to roam outside, can suffer spinal trauma from one of several causes:

  • Gunshot wounds on or near spinal column
  • Vehicle accidents
  • Bite wounds on or near the spine
  • High falls
  • Cats may also experience spinal trauma as the result of a physical or health problem:
  • Ruptured disk
  • Defect or malformation of spinal column
  • Neurological conditions
  • Birth abnormalities (e.g. tailless Manx cats developing spina bifida before birth)
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Diagnosis of Spinal Trauma in Cats

Vets begin examinations of cats with spinal trauma with a full physical so they can decide whether the trauma is related to an injury or an illness. After the physical exam, the vet orders X-rays that help narrow down the area of injury as well as its cause. The cat may also undergo a myelogram, which uses a contrast dye along with X-rays or a CT scan to zero in on the spinal injury. A specialist usually carries these tests out.

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Treatment of Spinal Trauma in Cats

Once the vet has made a diagnosis, it’s time for treatment. If the cat’s spinal injury and symptoms are significant, the vet may recommend surgical intervention. Surgery usually removes the cause of pressure on the spine, which may reverse limb weakness or paralysis. If the cat’s spinal cord has been lacerated (cut), surgery may be an option to help the cat recover some function.

Anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed to help reduce swelling and inflammation of the spinal cord, as well as surrounding tissues. Vets also prescribe antibiotics to treat or reduce bacterial infections, giving the cat a better chance at recovery.

After surgery, the cat will need significant post-operative care, which means it will be placed in a cage to reduce movement. The cat may also wear a neck brace to reduce stress and pressure on the neck, minimize unnecessary movement, and allow the cat’s spine to heal. The vet and pet owner will need to monitor the cat closely to make sure that the cat doesn’t develop skin injuries resulting from the snug bandages wrapped around its body.

Some vets and pet owners may choose to give the cat physical therapy, which allows the cat to “relearn” movements lost after the injury and regain some ability to move around. The cat may also benefit from complementary therapies, such as massage and acupuncture. Depending on the severity of the cat’s spinal cord injury, post-surgical treatment may go on for several weeks or months.

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Recovery of Spinal Trauma in Cats

Depending on how soon a spinal cord injury was diagnosed and treated, the cat may recover fully or may continue to feel the aftereffects of its injuries for the rest of its life. For instance, a spinal cord injury resulting from a yanked tail may seem to be insignificant. But, because the tail contains nerve roots, the cat may lose the ability to move its lower limbs, as well as developing urinary and/or fecal incontinence, which will be a lifelong condition.

Milder spinal trauma cases have a better prognosis than acute injuries. Pet owners who carefully follow all veterinary orders give their cats a better chance at recovery and a more normal life. Each cat and injury is individual. While vets have a regimen of treatments they prescribe for cats with spinal cord injuries, the cat’s chances at recovery rely on the severity of the trauma and how quickly the cat was given treatment. Cat owners should take their cats to each follow up appointment, which allows the vet to determine whether an existing treatment is appropriate or whether another treatment should be started. If the cat has lost sensation below the location of the injury, its recovery outlook may be poor.

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Spinal Trauma Average Cost

From 362 quotes ranging from $2,000 - $6,000

Average Cost

$4,000

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Spinal Trauma Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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N/A its a fluffy grey and white kitten, very young

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1 month and 13 days

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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

Walking Backwards Or Not Walking At All, Has A Spaz If It Is Laying On Its Back At Any Time, Doesn'T Play

So the kitten accidentally got stepped on in the dark by a family member last night and its behavior has changed drastically since then. The family member said they stepped on it but doesn't remember how and the parent of the house believes it was on the spine or brain because of the way it's acting, showing neurological problems. My questions are, what might be the problem? Should we see a vet? COULD this be treated at home? Thank you for your time.

July 14, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Yes your kitten should absolutely see a veterinarian if your kitten is displaying abnormal behavior since being stepped on. If there are neurologic changes in your kitten that means she may have been seriously injured. Your veterinarian will be able to assess your kittens neurological status, next steps and treatment recommendations. I hope she feels better soon.

July 14, 2020

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Meko

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domestic short hair

dog-age-icon

6 Years

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Serious severity

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5 found helpful

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

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Depression
Pain
Weakness
Limping
Weak Limbs

My cat hurt her spine last week. I'm not sure how but I assume it was from a fall. She has been in a lot of pain. I took her to the vet right away and they X-rayed her. They said there was no fracture and that her hips were in place but that she probably had damage to her spinal tissue. Since then she has not seemed to get much better. Her limbs seem weak. She can walk ok but is obviously in pain and does not want to play and mostly just lies around in awkward positions, cries sometimes sadly, doesn't want to be held will nip at me if I try to touch the sensitive parts. I am so worried that she is still in some much pain. Previously she was VERY active and playful. What can I do to help her?

Sept. 6, 2018

Meko's Owner

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Nones as of now

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Kitten

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2 Months

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

Draging A Le

I found a small kitten on the road. She maybe two months old. Her right leg just dangles and she drags it when she walks. She doesn't seem as tho it hurts her at all. However she has a small abrasion on that leg that dangles. I've had her for about a week and she really isn't pooping, and even stimulating isn't helping. I think she may have pooped once or twice after her tramp. I found her in the middle of the road dragging her lower body. She is defentley stronger now, but i just dont understand her leg. Please any advice wouñd be awsome.

Sept. 5, 2018

Nones as of now's Owner

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samson

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mixed

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13 Years

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

Fair severity

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1 found helpful

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

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Trouble Waking On Hind Legs

On Thursday when I left for work, Samson was fine doing all good normal things. When i came home from work he was having trouble waking with his back legs. I immediately took him to aemergency room which did not help at all. I took him home and watch him all night. On Saturday morning, he seemed to be improving, but not a lot. I took him to his vet who have me a prescription for steroids because it sounded more to her that he might have trauma to his spine. I have an appointment to have blood work done in a week. His waking does seem to be getting better, but is there a way to tell if he is feeling better? He is still eating, drinking,and using the litter box. I just think I am so worried that i am reading into every movement, but i don't want to miss any signs.please help.

Aug. 27, 2018

samson's Owner

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1 Recommendations

Since we don’t have a concrete diagnosis (“sounds like trauma to the spine”) it is difficult to give a specific prognosis or guide you through what to expect. However, it is generally positive if Samson is eating, drinking and doing his business; but ensure that he is resting and not running, jumping or playing. Monitor him for any improvements and follow up with your Veterinarian if there is no improvement. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 28, 2018

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Kiki

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Mix

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2 Weeks

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

Twisted Neck, Twisted Back, Rolls

My cat had a litter of kittens. Most of them came out with minor defects, 2 with twisted back legs and the other can not walk with its legs or crawl. It looks more like it's rolling and like it's twisted to one side. To me, it looks like the spine is curved along the neck to that one side. Would she ever be able to walk?

Aug. 21, 2018

Kiki's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Without examining Kiki it is difficult to say whether there would be any improvement and an x-ray may be required to understand the issue fully; however it is possible that Kiki may not walk or may have difficulties moving in the future. If all the litter have some deformity you should get them checked over by a Veterinarian and consider spaying the mother. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 22, 2018

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Mercedes

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Shorthair

dog-age-icon

3 Months

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Paralysis
Constantly Shivering

My kitten Mercedes is almost 3 months old and had diarrhoea a few days ago so I added some pumpkin to her food later on in the day she vomited and we then took her to the vet. He gave her 3 injections and some oral medication(I’m not sure what they were exactly but he said something like a dewormer and an antibiotic and a drip) some was injected into her leg but some along her back. When we returned home she was drowsy and limping and I called the vet but he said this was all side effects of the medicine. A day later she could barely move and was shaking uncontrollably. The day after her whole body was limp, eyes barely open and unable to control her bladder. We picked up the vet and he came and took a look at her gave her some oral medicine and another antibiotic. It’s been two days and Mercedes is still unable to walk or stand even with support, make sound, has tremors and will shiver uncontrollably as soon as she’s out of a blanket or eat and I have to force feed her with a syringe and even then she only takes the bare minimum. I’ve been trying to give her wet kitten food but it’s nearly impossible to do so so I give her milk right now. I’m beginning to think that the vet might have injected something into her spine and thus injured her because she was no where near this sick when we first took her. And to top it off I come from a small town with only one vet so I can’t even get a second opinion. I don’t know what to do and I feel like my baby is slowly dying on me. Any suggestions ? Especially on what and how to feed her? I will greatly appreciate any help I can get 😭

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Peanut

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Long hair domestic cat

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1 Year

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

Critical severity

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0 found helpful

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

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Back Pain
Not Pooping
Not Peeing

Hello everyone, I have a cat named Peanut, and she was a healthy and vivacious little being. However, yesterday, someone in our complex had beaten our baby badly. They chipped her tooth, fractured her face, and caused a spine dislocation. She was able to drag herself to our door step....and luckily my bf heard her deep moans and cry for help. She had cuts on her face and was dragging her feet. We took her to a vet, and they told us she has no sensation in her lower half. I paid $500 in medical bills and medicine and that is all I can afford; they believe she would be a good candidate for surgery.....but I am a college student and cannot afford to do so. Regardless of all the doctor's diagnosis, she kicked her two legs last night. I have hope, and she did not consume food or water for 12 hours. She finally did after midnight. She cries in pain, but it seems like things are looking hopeful. She hasnt done the restroom and that is what concerns me. I might have to take her to the vet, but I cannot afford to anymore. I feel like she can pull through this. She is a fighter....got her from a pound and ever since...she has pulled through. I know some people might find this weird, but she inspires me.....she was my strength when I had my own troubles in my life. I just hurt that I cannot do better for her, and just seeing her suffer saddens me because I am her fur parent. I am to do all that is possible for my little P-baby.

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Peb

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Cat

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1 Month

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

Pain

My cat was out for the day yesterday she has come home and won’t let anyone touch her tail, hissing and growling. She is walking fine but she is obviously in pain with it, I’m taking her the vets this morning. Does anyone have any ideas what will happen

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Kanga

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mixed

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6 Months

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

Back Legs Periodically Collaps
Sways
Back Legs Collapse

I have a very young rescue kitten. (~6 months) who very suddenly sways, stumbles and falls in her rear legs. No trauma is known and is a 100% indoor cat. We do have a tall cat tree. I took her to the vet, they did Xrays and sent to a specialist and they see no clinical issues. She is pretty constipated though. I've bought pet insurance, but it'll be 2 weeks before it kicks in and doesn't cover pre-existing conditions. She's happy alert, playful, doesn't appear to be in pain. Vet says heart rate is fine.

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Turkey

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American Shorthair

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4 Months

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

Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Darting Eyes, Head Shaking

My kitten jumped into a food bowl and my dog bit her somewhere in the head or neck. She lost a lot of blood. Her condition has gotten a lot better in the last six hours. We called two vets and they both said to just keep an eye on her condition. She is awake and breathing fine. She keeps moving her head back and forth and it seems to cause discomfort for her to move her head to the right. She tried to walk earlier and stumbled around. She doesn't move her body much.

Spinal Trauma Average Cost

From 362 quotes ranging from $2,000 - $6,000

Average Cost

$4,000

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