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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.

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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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0 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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0 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

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6 Years

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Serious severity

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8 found helpful

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

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Depression
Weak Limbs
Pain
Weakness
Limping

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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Spinal Trauma Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$4,000

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

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

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