What is Wobblers Syndrome?
Animals diagnosed with Wobblers Syndrome may trip, lose coordination and stability in their legs, and drag the knuckles of their paws along the ground when walking. Those severely affected by Wobblers Syndrome may not be able to stand up.
Cervical spondylomyelopathy, also known as Wobblers Syndrome, is a neurological disorder that weakens or affects the stability of the cervical vertebrae in the neck. In some cases, the instability may cause the vertebrae to shift and compress the spinal cord. This syndrome is most often diagnosed in large dogs, but can occur in cats, though very rarely. Wobblers Syndrome is a progressive disease, meaning that it will get worse as time goes on, and may cause paralysis if left untreated. It is important to take your cat to the vet immediately if you suspect they are suffering from Wobblers Syndrome.
Symptoms of Wobblers Syndrome in Cats
Wobblers Syndrome can be very painful for your cat. Seek immediate veterinary attention as soon as you notice any of the following symptoms to minimize your cat’s pain and discomfort:
- Tripping over their feet
- Signs of pain
- Reluctance to raise their head
- Inability to balance
- Loss of coordination, particularly in the hind legs
Causes of Wobblers Syndrome in Cats
The cause of Wobblers Syndrome, particularly in cats, is unknown. Current veterinary literature suggests that Wobblers Syndrome may be a congenital disorder, meaning it is inherited at birth. However, Wobblers Syndrome may also be a spontaneous occurrence in older dogs. Dobermans and Great Danes have a higher predisposition for developing the disorder. Due to the rarity of the disease in cats, no breed, sex, or age predispositions for Wobblers Syndrome have been identified in current veterinary literature.
Diagnosis of Wobblers Syndrome in Cats
Your vet will need to know your cat’s medical history, the extent and duration of symptoms, and any medications your cat is taking. The vet will perform a thorough physical and neurological examination and take a standard x-ray of the neck. A myelography may also be required in order to see the extent of spinal cord compression. This procedure will require your cat to be anesthetized. The vet will inject a contrast dye into the neck, which will highlight compression of the spinal cord on the x-ray. CT scans and MRIs may also be helpful in visualizing spinal cord compression.
Treatment of Wobblers Syndrome in Cats
Conservative treatment for Wobblers Syndrome typically involves anti-inflammatory medications combined with crate rest. Allowing your cat to engage in activity may exacerbate the condition or cause relapse. Conservative treatment for Wobblers Syndrome often lasts several months, and sometimes for the remainder of a cat’s life.
Surgery may be required to correct Wobblers Syndrome. This is the preferred treatment method for vets because it provides the greatest chance of long-term success. The primary objective of surgery is to eliminate spinal cord compression. Due to the rarity of the condition in cats, the specific surgical procedure for Wobblers Syndrome in cats has not been outlined in veterinary literature. Your vet will advise you on a surgical procedure based on your cat’s specific needs.
Recovery of Wobblers Syndrome in Cats
Recovery and prognosis may vary depending on the severity of the condition and the success of treatment. However, the prognosis is generally fair provided that the syndrome is caught early and treated appropriately. Always follow your vet’s post-treatment and/or post-operative instructions carefully. Always administer any medications exactly as directed for the full duration of the recovery period even if symptoms start to improve. Never administer any over-the-counter pain or anti-inflammatory medications made exclusively for human use.
The recovery period following surgery will last for several weeks. If your cat has had surgery, ensure they have a warm place to rest on the return home. Do not allow them to irritate the surgery site. Do not place a collar on your cat during the recovery period as this may cause them pain. You should restrict their outdoor activity until the recovery period has concluded.
Your vet will schedule follow-up appointments as needed to monitor healing. During these appointments, your vet will take x-rays and perform neurological examinations to measure healing and recovery.