Your cat’s nerves constantly send messages from her spinal cord to her brain that allow her body to move. When something interrupts those nerve signals, paralysis can occur.
Rear-leg paralysis in cats is extremely serious and should be dealt with immediately. Here’s what the vets at Vetted want you to know about treating your cat during the first two hours after her back legs stop working.
0-30 minutes in: Immobilization and Vet Call
When you find your cat paralyzed from the waist down (or if any part of her body is paralyzed), contact the closest emergency vet’s office and let them know you’re on your way. Even if your cat is meowing or seems to be in pain, resist the urge to pick her up. You want to transport your cat as carefully as possible so as not to exacerbate any injury.
Take note of your cat’s symptoms. Paralysis isn’t all-or-nothing…full rear leg paralysis is called paraplegia, but some cats only show partial paralysis symptoms. Dragging her hind legs, inability to move one or more legs, or obvious pain or strain during movement can all be indications.
As carefully as you cat, slide your cat only a stable surface (like a large coffee table book or a flat piece of cardboard) for transport to the vet. If possible, have a second person help hold the cat in place on the way there. Try your best to soothe your cat and keep her calm.
30 minutes – 1 hour in: Vet Examination
There are more than a dozen reasons cats can suddenly or gradually become paralyzed. A few of the most common reasons for paraplegia include an infection in the spine, a slipped disc in the back, or a sudden traumatic injury such as a fall.
Other possibilities include: toxoplasmosis, cryptococcus infection, botulism, tick-borne infections, peritonitis, stroke, inflammation of the spine, tumors in the spine or brain, blocked blood flow to the hind legs (aortic embolus), and blocked blood flow to the spine (embolus), among others.
Your vet will perform a series of reflex tests to determine your cat’s current range of motion. Drawing blood for basic lab tests will also help her determine whether your cat is suffering from an infection. She may decide to perform an x-ray (or even a special kind of x-ray known as a meylogram or a CT) to get a better visual picture of what’s going on inside your cat’s body.
1 hour – 2 hours in: Wait for Diagnosis
It may take several hours and in some cases even days, for your cat’s issue to be fully diagnosed. Her options for treatment will depend entirely on what the underlying cause of the paralysis is: Serious infections can typically be treated with intravenous antibiotics; tumors or slipped discs might require surgery.
Your vet should be communicative throughout the entire process about which tests are being performed and what any preliminary results show. If your cat is in any pain, you’ll likely be given the option of putting her on pain medications to allow her to rest more peacefully.
Sudden hind leg paralysis in cats can be very, very serious, but it’s not necessarily a life-changing diagnosis. Whatever the cause, you should expect your cat to stay with the vet for several days during testing, diagnosis, and treatment.
Is your cat suddenly paralyzed?
Contact an emergency vet in your area right away.